Happy New Year: California Now Allows Private Residents to Sue Gunmakers

California’s SB 1327 went into effect on January 1, 2023, allowing private residents in the state to file suits against gun manufacturers who violate the state’s “assault weapons” ban or ban on gun sales to anyone under 21.

The Los Angeles Times reported that 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 passed in reaction to the Texas heartbeat law, which allows abortionists to be sued for terminating pregnancies beyond six weeks of pregnancy.

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

The fee-shifting component was designed to dissuade lawsuits from gun controls 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.

Benitez concluded, “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.”