Two pieces of legislation allowing private rights of action against gun manufacturers and dealers in California — modeled on a Texas law that allows lawsuits against aiders and abettors of abortion — have been been signed into law. Some experts think they could survive inevitable legal challenges brought in federal courts by gun rights groups. The bills passed the California Legislature along party lines, Courthouse News Service reports. Both pieces of legislation were introduced as part of a larger package of gun control legislation that Gov. Gavin Newsom advocated for after a number of mass shootings across the U.S. The one modeled after a Texas measure will allow people to sue gun dealers and manufacturers in state court when an illegal gun was used in a crime. The Texas law allows citizens to file $10,000 lawsuits against anyone who helps a woman get an abortion. The second California law allows private rights of actions against gun dealers and manufacturers for marketing their products to people at risk of harming themselves or others.
Law professors believe the California laws have been tailored to survive legal challenges because they don’t directly threaten a protected constitutional right. Leslie Jacobs, a professor of law at McGeorge School of Law, says the bill modeled after the Texas legislation is different enough that it could survive a challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Texas law challenged what at that time was a constitutionally protected right under Roe v. Wade. Jacobs said the California law "is clearly aimed at gun dealers and manufacturers in California who sell or make guns already illegal under California law." Jacobs said. If anything, she says the law could be challenged as vague on what type of guns are banned under state law. Gregory Keating, a professor of law at University of Southern California, said the private rights of action are similar to wrongful death suits. Instead of suing an individual, California's second law allows people to also sue the gun dealer and manufacturer. Keating said the California legislation is a bit broad, but focuses on marketing of weapons to young people, so it may stand up to a constitutional challenge by gun rights groups.