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Gov. Gavin Newsom’s modest gun-control proposal

What if private citizens were empowered to enforce gun laws?

California Gov. Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom
REUTERS/Fred Greaves

Over the weekend, California Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a state law that would allow private citizens to sue anyone they believe is selling illegal guns, such as assault weapons, or so-called “ghost guns” (referring to guns that have no serial numbers, cannot be traced and can be bought online and generally assembled at home by the buyer, enabling the buyer acquire dangerous, potentially illegal weapons without leaving a paper trail).

Rather obviously, he is using the idea of empowering private individuals, motivated by both profit and, presumably, their personal gun politics to go into the business of enforcing guns laws, to match, or mock the much-publicized new Texas law that allows private self-appointed bounty hunters to sue anyone who helps a pregnant woman seeking an abortion.

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I can’t say how serious Newsom is, nor how seriously the idea will be taken. But he is proceeding. He says, with a straight face, that if Texas can reward private citizens with cash for reporting women seeking abortions, he would prefer to “save lives” by empowering private citizens to profit by ratting out those seeking dangerous illegal weapons.

Here’s Newsom’s post on Twitter about the idea, dated Saturday, in which he specifies that he is motivated by “outrage” that the Supreme Court is allowing the Texas law to stand.

If Newsom’s idea gains any legal traction at all, and assuming that it will be strenuously opposed by gun rights advocates, it will be interesting see how the courts, and especially the Supreme Court if it should get that far, treat it.