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Newsom backs bill allowing Californians to enforce assault weapons ban

A bill introduced by Senator Hertzberg Friday will enable private citizens to hold the gun industry accountable through civil litigation

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Governor Newsom announces gun safety package at Del Mar Fairgrounds (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

DEL MAR, Calif. – Flanked by California Attorney General Rob Bonta and Democratic lawmakers, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his support for a new package of gun safety legislation to expand the state’s nation-leading protections against gun violence at a press conference Friday.

Chief among the legislation introduced is a bill that would allow private citizens to sue anyone who manufactures, distributes, transports, imports into the state or sells assault weapons, .50 BMG rifles, ghost guns, or ghost gun kits, authored by Democratic state Sen. Bob Hertzberg.

Modeled after the Texas law SB8 that lets private citizens enforce that state’s ban on abortions, it is measure Newsom called for in December to help hold the gun industry accountable through private lawsuits.

“If Texas can use a law to ban a woman’s right to choose and to put her health at risk, we will use that same law to save lives and improve the health and safety of the people in the state of California,” Newsom said 

“In a just world, a woman’s right to choose would be sacrosanct, and California’s people would be protected from ghost guns and assault weapons. Sadly, a misguided Supreme Court decision has turned common sense on its head. With this bill, we take advantage of the Court’s flawed logic to protect all Californians and save lives,” Hertzberg said.

“Our message to the United States Supreme Court is as follows: What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. I look forward to rushing a new bill to the governor’s desk to take advantage of that United States Supreme Court guidance,” he added.

Also included, AB 1594 by Assemblymembers Philip Ting (D-San Francisco), Mike Gipson (D-Carson) and Christopher Ward (D-San Diego) would allow individuals and the California Attorney General to sue manufacturers and sellers of firearms for the harm caused by their product.

In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which shields gun manufacturers and dealers from civil suits when crimes are committed using the guns they produce. AB 1594 utilizes an exemption to the federal statute that allows gun makers or sellers to be sued for violations of state laws concerning the sale or marketing of firearms. 

“No industry should get a special exemption from protecting their customers, but especially not an industry responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans every year,” said Attorney General Bonta. “In 2005, the federal government stripped Americans of the right to hold gun manufacturers and distributors responsible for the damage their conduct causes when their products are used unlawfully – leaving only a narrow exception for such lawsuits. Today, using that exception, we begin the process of restoring these rights in California. AB 1594 requires the gun industry to take reasonable steps to make sure their products are not used unlawfully. If the gun industry ignores this responsibility – one that is common for companies in nearly every industry in the country – this bill gives victims and their families an additional legal pathway for holding the firearm industry financially responsible.”

“We must make our communities safer. Almost every industry in the United States can be held liable for what their products do, but the gun industry is not held to the same standard. Financial repercussions may finally push them to be more responsible by improving their practices and adhering to California’s strict gun laws,” said Assemblymember Ting.

“The U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we make up nearly a third of the world’s mass shootings,” said Assemblymember Ward. “This is a public health crisis that the federal government has continually failed to address. California must take action and hold irresponsible, reckless and negligent gun manufacturers, distributors and sellers accountable.”

Newsom also highlighted AB 1621 by Assemblymember Gipson to further restrict ghost guns in California by bringing the state into compliance with a proposed new federal rule that would cause many gun kits and “80 percent receivers” to be regulated the same as fully functional firearms and finished receivers. Under the legislation, these couldn’t be sold without a serial number or without the buyer undergoing a background check. 

Governor Newsom announces gun safety package at Del Mar Fairgrounds, where the sale of firearms and ammunition was prohibited under legislation he signed into law in 2019. 
(Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

“Gun manufacturers view our children as their next generation of customers, and target them with slick and manipulative advertising. The advertising for these weapons is shameless. Children in California are not allowed to buy or own a gun, yet they are advertised across all forms of media with cartoons, video games, and social media. I’m proud to stand with Governor Newsom on these important reforms – enough is enough,” said Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan.

“Even before the pandemic, stories from families of gun violence have kept me up at night. My own son and his fiancé were victims… and this issue has only gotten worse. In the community of Watts which I represent, there were 22 homicides from January through November of 2020, nearly double the number from the year before,” said Assemblymember Gipson. “For communities alike, gun violence is our wildfire that we work diligently trying to contain. And the casualties are our babies, sisters, brothers, friends and acquaintances – all deserving of life but were cut short of their potential. To say that this issue is personal to me is an understatement, and sending thoughts and prayers just isn’t enough. AB 1621 seeks to eradicate ghost guns from our streets, and this effort is nothing short of a lifesaving, common sense approach toward providing justice for families who have continued to bear the burden of losing a loved one through incidents that could have otherwise been prevented. We need the comprehensive reform which each bill in this package together aims to provide – this is wholeheartedly about saving lives, and nothing less.”

The Governor’s proposed Real Public Safety Plan would create a new statewide gun buyback program to provide matching grants and safe-disposal opportunities to get guns off the state’s streets, and includes additional funding for California’s gun violence research center at the University of California, Davis. 

California pioneered statewide gun safety protections, approved by voters in Proposition 63, to ban possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines and require background checks to keep ammunition out of the hands of dangerous people.

Since assuming office, Governor Newsom has signed multiple bills aimed at reducing gun violence, including strengthening gun violence restraining orders, regulating the sale of firearms and ammunition and accelerating the regulation of ghost guns.

The 2021 state budget invested $200 million in the CalVIP program, which supports initiatives designed to break the cycle of violence in disproportionately impacted communities. The budget also provided $11 million to facilitate outreach, education and training efforts related to gun violence restraining orders and $10.3 million for local law enforcement agencies to support the seizure of firearms from individuals prohibited from possessing them.

California has banned the manufacture and sale of assault weapons for decades. But last year, a federal judge overturned that ban. The law is still in place while the state appeals the decision.

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California Politics

Abortion rights: California Constitutional Amendment heads to ballot

The state is expanding efforts to protect women seeking abortions or reproductive care as well as anyone assisting those women

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Capitol building in Sacramento (Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – In November, California voters will have an opportunity to amend the state’s constitution to include the right to an abortion and today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to further protect women coming to California from other states.

“California will not back down from the fight to protect abortion rights as more than half the states in this country, enabled by the Supreme Court, ban or severely restrict access,” said Newsom. “We are ensuring Californians will have the opportunity this November to enshrine the right to choose in our state constitution. And we’re not waiting until November to take action, today’s executive order ensures that the state will not hand over patients who come here to receive care and will not extradite doctors who provide care to out-of-state patients here. In California, women will remain protected.”  

The order signed today prevents any information, including medical records and patient data, from being shared by state agencies or departments in response to inquiries or investigations brought by other states or individuals within those states looking to restrict access. The state is expanding efforts to protect women seeking abortions or reproductive care as well as anyone assisting those women.

SCA 10 was passed by the California State Assembly today and now heads to the November ballot.  

Within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last Friday, Governor Newsom signed legislation to help protect patients and providers in California from civil liability for providing, aiding, or receiving abortion care in the state. In addition, Governor Newsom and the governors of Oregon and Washington launched a new Multi-State Commitment to defend access to reproductive health care and protect patients and providers.  

The budget agreement announced yesterday includes more than $200 million in additional funding for reproductive health care services. Governor Newsom recently signed legislation eliminating copays for abortion care services and has signed into law a legislative package to further strengthen access and protect patients and providers.  

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California Politics

Newsom, Senate & Assembly leaders announce budget agreement

23 million Californians will benefit from direct payments of up to $1,050 & additional funds to help people pay rent & utility bills

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Governor Newsom with some of the state's leadership Friday (Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – California Governor Gavin Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) announced they had were able to reach an agreement on the framework for the 2022-23 state budget.

In a statement released Sunday evening, the state’s leadership said:

“California’s budget addresses the state’s most pressing needs, and prioritizes getting dollars back into the pockets of millions of Californians who are grappling with global inflation and rising prices of everything from gas to groceries.

“The centerpiece of the agreement, a $17 billion inflation relief package, will offer tax refunds to millions of working Californians. Twenty-three million Californians will benefit from direct payments of up to $1,050. The package will also include a suspension of the state sales tax on diesel, and additional funds to help people pay their rent and utility bills.

“In addition, California is doubling down in our response to the climate crisis – securing additional power-generating capacity for the summer, accelerating our clean energy future, expanding our ability to prepare for and respond to severe wildfires, extreme heat, and the continuing drought conditions that lie ahead.

“This budget builds on our unprecedented commitment to transform the resources available in our state, from a $47 billion multi-year infrastructure and transportation package to education and health care, showing the nation what a true pro-life agenda looks like. With these new investments, California will become the first state to achieve universal access to health care coverage.

Newsom and his legislative counterparts also highlighted that in the wake of Friday’s stunning U.S. Supreme Court decision, California is reaffirming its commitment to defending reproductive rights, providing more than $200 million in additional funding for reproductive health care services. The state will also be investing in key programs that help California families, from funding for homeownership programs and billions of dollars in additional ongoing funding for education, to universal preschool, children’s mental health, and free school meals.

“In the face of growing economic uncertainty, this budget invests in California’s values while further filling the state’s budget reserves and building in triggers for future state spending to ensure budget stability for years to come,” the statement read.

Yesterday the governor and the leadership agreed to the framework to offset the high cost of gas prices and the hit inflation has created on the wallets of taxpayers, particularly those who least able to bear the added cost burden. Under the budget compromise most California taxpayers would get hundreds of dollars in cash to help offset the high price of fuel and other goods.

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California Politics

Delayed repeal of loitering law targeting sex workers sent to Newsom

SB 357 repeals “loitering with intent to engage in prostitution” law, which results in harassment of transwomen & women of color sex workers

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Sex workers under arrest by the LASD (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) sent Senate Bill 357, the Safer Streets for All Act, to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for his action Monday. The Legislature passed SB 357 last year, but Senator Wiener held the bill at the Senate desk, delaying its transmittal to the Governor.

Governor Newsom will have 12 days to sign the bill after it is processed by the Senate. SB 357 repeals a provision of California law criminalizing “loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution.” This criminal provision — arrests for which are based on an officer’s subjective perception of whether a person is “acting like” or “looks like” they intend to engage in sex work — results in the disproportionate criminalization of trans, Black and Brown women, and perpetuates violence toward sex workers.

SB 357 is sponsored by a large coalition made up of former and current sex workers, LGTBQ groups like Equality California and Transgender Gender-variant and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), and civil rights groups like the ACLU. The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST LA) is supporting the legislation.

SB 357 does not decriminalize soliciting or engaging in sex work. Rather, it simply eliminates an loitering offense that leads to harmful treatment of people for simply “appearing” to be a sex worker.

This crime is so subjective and inherently profiling that it allows a police officer to arrest someone purely based on how they are dressed, whether they’re wearing high heels and certain kinds of make-up, how they’re wearing their hair, and the like. This criminal provision is inherently discriminatory and targets people not for any action but simply based on how they look. People who engage in sex work deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Criminalizing sex work does not make sex workers or communities safer. Most criminal penalties for sex workers, loitering laws included, do nothing to stop sex crimes against sex workers and human trafficking. In fact, loitering laws make it harder to identify trafficking victims; trafficking victims are often afraid to come forward in fear of being arrested or incarcerated. 

In February of 2021, a similar piece of legislation to repeal this type of loitering ban became law in New York. SB 357 is part of the movement to end discrimination against and violence toward sex workers, especially the most targeted communities — trans, Black, and Brown people. SB 357 is co-sponsored by Positive Women’s Network – USA, St. James Infirmary, SWOP LA, Trans [email protected] Coalition, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, Equality California and ACLU California Action. 

Under current law, it is a crime to loiter in a public place with the “intent” to commit a sex work-related offense. But this law can be broadly interpreted, and thus allows for discriminatory application against the LGBTQ community and people of color. Law enforcement can use a non-exhaustive list of circumstances to subjectively determine if someone “intends” to engage in sex work, including factors such as speaking with other pedestrians, being in an area where sex work has occurred before, wearing revealing clothing, or moving in a certain way.

Because current law regarding loitering is highly subjective and vague, law enforcement officers disproportionately profile and target Black and Brown transgender women by stopping and arresting people for discriminatory and inappropriate reasons. This is how Black and Brown transgender women get arrested and cited for simply walking on the street. It also gives law enforcement the ability to more easily target and arrest sex workers.

People in the LGBTQ, Black, and Brown communities report high rates of police misconduct throughout the United States and are disproportionately affected by police violence. Transgender people who have done street-based sex work are more than twice as likely to report physical assault by police officers and four times as likely to report sexual assault by police.

A Black person is 3.5 times more likely to be shot by police than a white person. These statistics are a daily reality that transgender, Black and Brown people face and lead to mistrust of law enforcement.

SB 357 will repeal a discriminatory law that makes it a crime to loiter with the intent to engage in sex work, given that it fails to prevent street-based sex work and disproportionately results in the criminalization of transgender people and communities of color.

“This Pride Month, as we see a surge in violence against and harassment of the LGTBQ community, it is more important than ever to get rid of a law that targets our community,” said Wiener. “Current law essentially allows law enforcement to target and arrest people if they are wearing tight clothes or a lot of make-up. Many of those impacted by this law are Black and Brown trans women. Pride isn’t just about rainbow flags and parades. It’s about protecting the most marginalized in our community. I urge Governor Newsom to sign SB 357.”

“SB 357 repeals a Jim Crow law that criminalized Black and trans people in public spaces,” said Fatima Shabazz of the DecrimSexWorkCA Coalition.

“We hope that the Safer Streets for All Act will help people understand how policing does not create public safety, and will immediately deprive police of one tool they use to harass and oppress folks based on race and gender,” said Ashley Madness of SWOP LA and the DecrimSexWorkCA Coalition.

“Ahora nosotros nos sentimos libre de caminar en la calle sin miedo que la policia nos vaya a arrestar,” (Now we can walk free on the streets without fear of the police arresting us,”) said Lisseth Sánchez of St. James Infirmary and the DecrimSexWorkCA

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