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California Enacts Bill Allowing Private Residents to Sue Gunmakers

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California’s SB 1327 took effect on January 1, 2023, allowing private people to sue gun manufacturers that violate the state’s “assault weapons” prohibition or restriction on gun sales to anyone under the age of 21.

According to The Los Angeles Times, supporters of the new law view the lawsuit option as a way of “enlisting an army of grass-roots enforcers” to safeguard the state’s “assault weapons” ban and minimum age requirement.

SB 1327 was enacted in response to Texas’ heartbeat law, which permits abortionists to be sued if they terminate fetuses beyond six weeks.

The legislation contains a fee-shifting component that U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez blocked on December 20, 2022.

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The fee-shifting component was aimed at preventing litigation from firearms regulations in California.

Benitez wrote: “The provisions of § 1021.11 (a) would expose the attorney to the risk of joint and several liability for the government’s fees. And unlike typical fee-shifting provisions, the risk would extend for three years after the conclusion of appellate review of the original litigation, as opposed to being part of the judgment in the original litigation. California’s § 1021.11 system of litigation rewards and punishments is completely contrary to that which was intended by Congress as expressed in § 1988”

He added, “Defendant Attorney General Rob Bonta and Intervenor-Defendant Governor Gavin Newsom, and their officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, and those persons in active concert or participation with them, and those who gain knowledge of this injunction order or know of the existence of this injunction order, are enjoined from implementing or enforcing California Code of Civil Procedure § 1021.11, as enacted by S.B. 1327.”

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