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Noah Feldman

Newsom Is Wrong to Mimic Texas’ Disrespect for the Constitution

A law that infringes on Second Amendment rights is as damaging as one that denies a woman’s right to choose.

An arena of principle.

An arena of principle.

Photographer: William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. That’s the spirit of the law proposed by California Governor Gavin Newsom to empower private citizens to sue anyone who makes or sells assault rifles in the state. The law violates the Second Amendment as interpreted by a federal district court in California. The idea is to circumvent the constitutional ban for a time — just as the Texas legislature has circumvented Roe v. Wade by empowering private citizens to sue abortion providers. Now that the Supreme Court has limited the abortion providers’ ability to get the Texas law frozen in protection of their constitutional rights, Newsom wants to send the message that what is sauce for the conservative goose is also sauce for the liberal gander.

Beyond the legal detail, which I’ll explain in a moment, is a serious, deep question: Should liberals stoop to the level of conservatives in circumventing federal courts’ authority? Is this one of those situations where when one side is playing hardball, it’s foolish to bring a whiffle bat? Or is the Constitution in this instance an arena of principle, in which meeting constitutional disrespect with more constitutional disrespect will only erode the rule of law?