This summer, students aren’t the only ones dreading going back to the classroom. According to staggering enrollment data, parents appear to have had a case of back-to-school blues over public education since COVID-19’s onset in early 2020.
In the past two years, a mass exodus of over 1.2 million students has left the public school system as parents seek alternative education routes, such as public charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling.
In particular, major American cities have seen a notable decline in public school enrollment. For example, New York City is experiencing “massive hemorrhaging of students,” according to Mayor Eric Adams, the New York Post reports.
Elsewhere in the country, Michigan is still 56,000 students shy of its pre-pandemic public school enrollment numbers. Orange County, Denver, Kansas City, and Chicago are just a few of the many more cities around the country realizing nose-diving numbers.
Through the pandemic and the transition from classrooms to virtual learning, many parents became disillusioned with their local public schools.
For some, they believed the school’s handling of the pandemic was unsatisfactory, due to lockdowns, which inconvenienced many families, as well as masking and vaccination policies. Others were unhappy after taking a closer look at their local public school curriculum and wanted more say in what their children were learning.
Loudoun County, Virginia, has been a prime example in the media over the past few years of local school boards pushing gender ideology, sexualized reading materials, and critical race theory in classrooms. Many national headlines have followed parents pushing back on the Loudoun County School Board time and again in a struggle over children’s educations.
Meg Kilgannon, Family Research Council’s senior fellow for education studies, gave her take to The Washington Stand:
There are more and more challenges for public school systems across the country: teacher shortages, medical overreach, falling test scores, disciplinary issues, and even violence. Add to that the fact that parents rightly felt betrayed not only by prolonged closures in some regions, but also by overly political and sexual content in curricula.
Kilgannon outlined her analysis of why the drastic drop in public school enrollments:
Parents who engage at school board meetings demonstrate a version of protest; removing your children from public school altogether is another. Voting with your feet sends a powerful message. And we need to make sure that even though our kids might be gone, our voices and worldview are still represented in the system.
If not public school, where are Americans turning for education? Ginny Gentles, director of the Education Freedom Center at Independent Women’s Forum, explains the demand for education alternatives and school choice.
“When parents realized that government schools prioritized unions and activists over students, they chose other education options,” Gentles told The Washington Stand. “Public school enrollment is plummeting, especially in the urban areas that abandoned children during the pandemic. Parents are flocking to alternative options, with charter school enrollment increasing by 7%, Catholic school enrollment increasing by the largest amount in 50 years, and parents exploring an array of homeschool options.”
With midterms in the near future and the issue of school choice in the viewfinder for voting parents, many expect education to be a driving factor in upcoming elections.
The elections of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, both Republicans, have shown that parents have concerns about what goes on in the classroom and they will vote accordingly. With declining public school enrollment and satisfaction, Americans are hitting the polls with their kids’ education at the forefront of their minds.
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Does watching a leftist activist dressed like an elf lecturing you about feminism for an hour sound like a good time? How about watching “Star Wars” dump on Donald Trump and the MAGA movement? If not, I’d recommend avoiding TV for a while.
As much as it seems like parody, these are apparently plot points for two upcoming programs.
During a recent appearance at San Diego Comic-Con, a yearly convention celebrating all things nerdy, one of the actresses from “Rings of Power” claimed her character on the show was an activist and that the show writers were giving her the opportunity to be a female character with agency.
Nazanin Boniadi, who plays the character Bronwyn, is a prominent human rights activist focusing on women’s rights in Iran. She has previously advocated for expanding government action on LGBT issues and reauthorizing the contentious Violence Against Women Act.
Boniadi told a group of gathered journalists at the convention, “What I love about the writers on this show is that they have given every woman on the show, every female character, such agency.”
In a later interview with ShowBiz Junkies, Boniadi added, “I call Bronwyn the fantastical version of myself because she’s an activist; I’m an activist. She’s a healer, I was premed. We have so much in common.”
Keep in mind that Boniadi’s character is in Middle-Earth, not 2022 San Francisco. Seems like she should be more concerned about orcs and Sauron than pushing radical feminism on TV.
Then we have “Andor,” focusing on lead character Cassian Andor as played by Diego Luna.
In addition to not being super creative (Andor is basically a cheap knockoff of Han Solo), the show is apparently going to be a Trump bash fest.
Actress Fiona Shaw, who plays a character named Maarva on the show, raved in an interview with Empire magazine that writer/director Tony Gilroy “has written a great, scurrilous (take) on the Trumpian world.”
Shaw adds, “Our world is exploding in different places right now, people’s rights are disappearing, and Andor reflects that. (In the show,) the Empire is taking over, and it feels like the same thing is happening in reality, too.”
Wow, what a new and creative take! Donald Trump is, like, actually evil. And he’s basically Darth Vader.
This is garbage, pure and simple. But it’s a frustratingly familiar type of garbage.
Like a swarm of perpetually outraged locusts, the left devours cultural properties including “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings.” The end result is always desiccated husk, devoid of any of the charm that attracted people to the show or movie in the first place.
Dogma replaces fun, and each piece of media regurgitates the same tired talking points.
And when fans of the original property are rightfully angry that their shows are being hijacked to disseminate propaganda, they’re accused of gatekeeping or bigotry.
But it’s not gatekeeping or bigoted to expect your show based on “The Lord of the Rings” to, you know, resemble “The Lord of the Rings.”
On that point specifically, the “Rings of Power” team has blatantly demonstrated they couldn’t care less about Tolkien’s story and are only interested in wearing the property like a skin suit.
Last month, Amazon fired preeminent Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey from his consulting gig on “Rings of Power,” reportedly for frequently telling the showrunners they were “polluting (Tolkien’s) lore.”
The radical left doesn’t care about the lore; it’s window dressing to the main message, which is political zealotry wrapped in a thin veneer of pop culture.
None of this is to say that there’s no place for politics in media. When done well, shows and movies can be elevated by tying their stories to political issues and reasoned social commentary.
Back in the 80s and 90s, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” deftly handled political issues by weaving them into the narrative. The show never got preachy, though, and U.S.S. Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard was able to transmit a message or moral that resonated with viewers each week.
But that’s not what modern shows are doing. Activists do not belong in “Lord of the Rings,” and attacks on Donald Trump definitely don’t belong in “Star Wars.”
The popular internet adage “go woke, go broke” hopefully applies here, and companies will realize that killing a property for leftist adulation is not a recipe for success.
Middle-Earth and a galaxy far, far away are not the places to stand on your political soapbox.
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New CDC data confirms that monkeypox overwhelmingly occurs in men who identify as gay or bisexual and who engage in risky sexual behavior—yet LGBT activists have said it is “not moral” to ask men to refrain from sex until the government can get the virus corralled.
Virtually all cases reported through last month involved men who have sex with men. “Among U.S. monkeypox cases with available data, 99% occurred in men, 94% of whom reported recent male-to-male sexual or close intimate contact” within three weeks before they developed symptoms, according to CDC report released on Friday.
Of that number, one-third of men said they had sex with five or more partners in the previous three weeks. In all, 27% had sex with one other male sexual partner; 40% reported two to four partners; 14% reported five to nine partners; and 19%—nearly one in five—reported 10 or more sexual partners within the previous 21 days.
The report also noted that monkeypox infections often took place in group settings: 38% “reported group sex, defined as sex with more than two persons, at a festival, group sex event, or sex party,” according to the CDC data, which cover May 17 through July 22.
The Biden administration’s survey confirms a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last month, which found “98% of the persons with infection were gay or bisexual men” and that transmission “was suspected to have occurred through sexual activity in 95% of the persons with infection.”
While the CDC explains that “the best way to protect yourself and others is to avoid sex of any kind,” it also recommends having virtual sex or “having sex with your clothes on.” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also counseled “for the moment, reducing your number of sexual partners.”
Despite such a stark number of monkeypox cases tied to homosexual or bisexual activities, the notion that men who identify as gay should momentarily abstain from having sex hardly received a hearing from the LGBTQ community, the public health establishment, and the legacy media. At best, a number of men offered to restrain themselves to “sex pods”—having group sex with the same people. Some LGBT activists denounced the notion of chastity as immoral.
Public “messaging from the CDC and others suggesting gays people simply have less—or distanced —sex has been met with eye rolls by many in the community,” admitted two self-described “queer” writers, Chris Stedman and Aditya Chandorkar, in a recent GQ article.
They asserted that “calling for abstinence is not effective. It’s also, we would argue, not moral to tell queer people, who have been told time and again by the world not to fulfill what is a basic human need, to simply do so again.”
Christian conservatives say that response confirms their contention that public health often rests on public ethics. “This is not just a medical issue. This really is a moral issue,” said David Closson, director of the Center for Biblical Worldview at the Family Research Council, on Friday’s episode of “Washington Watch.”
He accused health officials of engaging in “moral evasion” in order “to avoid the unfortunate reality that there are certain types of behaviors that are making this disease so rampant in certain communities. It’s not bigoted to point out basic facts of science and epidemiology.”
Sexual continence would have prevented all but 6% of known U.S. monkeypox cases, yet The Washington Post reported: “Sex is a major driver of the global outbreak. But health officials and longtime HIV activists say calls for abstinence don’t work.” The paper quoted one such official, WHO advisor Andy Seale, urging politicians to share monkeypox data in “a stigma-free, moral-free, not-making-any-judgments manner.” Yet epidemiologist Dr. Andrew G. Bostom recently told “Washington Watch” that any honest analysis would reveal that the monkeypox “outbreak has been fueled … by gay bacchanalia.”
Not only have leaders in the areas most affected by the virus refused to call on men who identify as gay to exercise self-restraint, they have not even canceled public LGBT events. On Sunday, San Francisco continued its annual “Up Your Alley Fair.”
“Located in front of the legendary Powerhouse bar, an anything-goes gay leather bar, nearly 15,000 fellow leather men and fetish enthusiasts engage in BDSM play at over 50 adult vendor spaces!” explains a gay website. “Spanking, punching, whips and floggers, bondage, domination and submission, creative water-sports, toys and so much more are in full effect.” The San Francisco AIDS Foundation advised the event is the place to “get your fill of hot hairy daddies, hungry pigs, BDSM babes and kinks of all kinds.” The foundation’s mascot—“Douchie,” an animated douche — shared “some hot tips for a fun and filthy weekend—free of anxiety.” None involved abstinence. It closed by telling readers, “You may choose to use one or two of these suggestions—or none at all.”
The foundation did not explain how taking no precautions would slow the spread of monkeypox.
The openness to willingly risk exposure to the extraordinarily painful virus shows the emptiness at the center of the gay lifestyle, said Joseph Sciambra, a former porn star and escort who left the lifestyle after his converting to Christianity. “Straight people wonder why gay men risk their lives in the midst of the monkeypox endemic, in order to take part in a sex fair,” he said. “Many Christians rightly wanted to attend church during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s the same thing. For some gay men these events are religious experiences.”
California Democrats apparently regard the hypersexualized thirst for large numbers of anonymous sexual partners as deserving of greater protection than actual religion. California Governor and potential 2024 Democratic presidential candidate Gavin Newsom fought all the way to the Supreme Court to defend a COVID-19 lockdown order keeping churches closed in his state.
Yet the Bay City’s left-wing political leadership has greeted monkeypox with exceptionally lax personal demands. “If people want to have sex, they are going to have sex,” California state Senator Scott Wiener, a Democrat, told the Post. “People will make their own decisions about their own risk levels.” he tweeted, “Lecturing people not to have sex isn’t a public health strategy. It didn’t stop HIV—it made it worse—and it won’t stop monkeypox.” Wiener also called closing gay bathhouses in the 1980s “an epic blunder.”
That’s a significantly more laissez-faire attitude than he took toward the coronavirus. In February, Wiener and Assemblyman Buffy Wicks, a Democrat, co-authored a bill that would mandate every employer in California require every employee to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. “The path to normalcy is through broad vaccination. Period,” Wiener tweeted.
“It is difficult to follow the science, as we were repeatedly told to do [during COVID-19], when we consistently see the science so faithfully following the politics,” said guest host Joseph Backholm on Friday.
For its part, the Biden administration, which declared monkeypox a public health emergency on Thursday, has shared LGBTQ activists’ emphasis on finding a medical remedy rather than addressing the underlying behavior spreading the virus. While the U.S. has recorded 7,509 total cases of monkeypox as of this writing, the Biden administration plans to ship out 950,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine by September.
Liberals’ hostility toward the free exercise of religion on one hand, and the embrace of anonymous group sex on the other, reflects America’s shifting sense of priorities and what professor Charles Taylor referred to as the building blocks of a modern identity. “Increasingly, whether you identify as gay or straight in America today, we now view our sexual behaviors, our sexual desires, our sexual urges as really at the core of who we are. It’s central to your being, to your self-identification,” said Closson. Any suggestion for you “to regulate your behavior” is seen as “an assault” on the most pivotal part of our being.
As the public response to the monkeypox outbreak shows, many American political leaders consider sexuality a far more central aspect of our lives—and their jobs—than the constitutionally protected freedom of religion.
The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation.
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With so much attention fixed on soaring prices for gasoline and groceries, one can almost overlook the fact that we’re also enduring an affordable housing crisis. The question is, why?
Spanning the pandemic era from February 2020 through May 2022, home prices soared 43.5%. Over the past 12 months, home prices are up 19.7%, while residential property prices in the United States, adjusted for inflation, are now 6.7% above the prior all-time record levels of the 2006 bubble.
Home prices are increasing far greater than family income growth is. The home-price-to-median-income ratio now stands at more than 8.1, significantly higher than the levels of well under 5.0 experienced from 1980 to 2000. The mortgage-payment-to-income ratio hit 42% in May—tied for the highest level since the creation of the index in 2006.
The mortgage payment on a median-priced home with a 20% down payment jumped from under $1,300 to more than $2,000 in just the past year as interest rates and home prices surged—a whopping 56% increase.
Median apartment rental costs, meanwhile, have jumped 12% this past year. Because leases often roll over annually, the Consumer Price Index data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not yet fully reflect this surge. Since March 2020, numerous cities experienced rent increases well over 30%.
So what’s to blame for these surging prices? Politicians are scapegoating “institutional owners” and other investors in rental properties. But the evidence doesn’t support this. According to mortgage giant Freddie Mac, “Overall investor share of home sales stands at 27.6% in December 2021, which is only slightly higher than 26.7% in 2019.”
Large investors (10 or more homes) account for only 6% of all home purchases. The proportion of home sales to investors is actually smaller today than in 2006. CoreLogic reports that from 1999-2018, “mom and pop” investors actually accounted for a growing portion of the homes purchased relative to private equity investors. Although the share of sales to institutional investors (pension funds, insurance companies, banks) and iBuyers (large corporate buyers that often remodel and flip) rose from under 2% in 2018 to 4% of home sales since 2021—this is still only a small portion of all rental homes purchased.
Institutional investors own just two out of every 1,000 (0.21%) of all residential real estate, and just 1% of all single-family rental homes nationwide. Over the past five years, rental housing as a share of total housing declined.
Far from leading the surge in home prices, both institutional and smaller investors are alleviating the affordable housing shortage. And by often paying below list price —29.4% less, according to a recent RealtyTrac report—institutional investors may actually be a counterweight to home price appreciation.
So who are the main culprits? Government mortgage subsidies, the Federal Reserve and local regulations.
Government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs)—namely, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—continue to dominate the mortgage market. Investors who purchase GSE bonds and mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) ultimately provide funds for people to finance homes, and these bondholders and MBS investors enjoy implicit government backing.
Approximately 90% of GSE volume is currently devoted to refinances, investor purchases, lower loan-to-value loans and pricier homes purchased by higher-income earners. Government-subsidized GSEs enable borrowers to take on bigger loans and spur housing demand, leading to higher home prices and increased taxpayer risk.
Since March 2020, the Federal Reserve has driven down mortgage interest rates and fueled a rise in housing costs by purchasing $1.3 trillion of MBSs from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae. The $2.7 trillion the Federal Reserve now owns is nearly double the levels of March 2020. Artificially increasing the amount of capital available for the residential home mortgage market and distorting interest rates has exacerbated home unaffordability.
On the local level, stringent zoning restrictions, density limitations and aggressive environmental regulation limit the supply of housing while increasing the costs of construction. Regulations often account for more than 30% of the costs of rental housing construction. Rent control further compounds the problem by deterring new construction, giving landlords fewer incentives to spend on upkeep and remodeling, and reducing the future supply of housing. New construction the past decade remains far lower than in the decade preceding the prior housing price bubble in part because of these restrictions.
Blaming real estate investors for the resulting misery may score political points. But demagoguery does nothing to alleviate it. Lawmakers can start to restore this bedrock of the American dream by removing federal subsidies from the housing market, restricting the Federal Reserve’s power to purchase a limitless quantity of mortgages, and eliminating the artificial barriers to housing supply erected by local leaders. It’s time to stop home prices from going through the roof.
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In keeping a promise he made last year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom just signed a bill modeled on the Texas Heartbeat Law. Their unique feature? Both laws seek to evade pre-enforcement judicial review by eliminating the power of state officials to enforce the law. Both the California and Texas laws can only be enforced by “private civil actions” seeking damages, and not by the public officials normally tasked with enforcing state and federal law.
While the Texas law is designed to prevent abortions, the California law instead takes aim at gun ownership.
California’s law allows people to sue anyone who distributes so-called assault weapons (particular models of pistols, shotguns, and rifles defined in section 22949.61 (b) of the law), parts that can be used to build weapons, guns without serial numbers, or .50-caliber rifles. The law declares it is illegal to “purchase, sell, offer to sell, or transfer ownership of any firearm precursor part in this state that is not a federally regulated firearm precursor part.”
Under this new law, private citizens in the state of California can file lawsuits against those who violate the act and recover up to $10,000 per violation.
Here’s how it normally works.
Ordinarily, parties who are potentially adversely affected by a new law and believe that it is unconstitutional will file a lawsuit, seeking to enjoin officials from enforcing the law—thereby preventing it from taking effect—while its constitutionality is litigated. That’s what happened in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—before the Supreme Court ultimately reached its decision overturning Roe v. Wade and upholding the constitutionality of Mississippi’s law.
But prior to Dobbs, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, a case involving the Texas Heartbeat Law, abortion providers filed a pre-enforcement challenge to prevent state courts from handling any private civil actions to enforce the Texas abortion ban.
The case was fast-tracked to the Supreme Court which decided, based on sovereign immunity and the inability of state officials to enforce the law under the terms of law, that the case against most of the named defendants (with the sole exception being some licensing officials) should be dismissed. The court did not address the underlying constitutionality of the law, leaving that to the lower courts to decide if and when any private lawsuits were filed once the law went into effect.
In fact, in its earlier order denying the petitioners’ application for injunctive relief, the five conservative justices in Whole Woman’s Health commented, “[T]his order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts.”
A few months after the Supreme Court issued its decision in Whole Woman’s Health, Idaho became the first state to adopt a copycat law. It went even further, allowing the family of the “preborn child” to sue the abortion provider, establishing a reward of at least $20,000 plus legal fees and allowing lawsuits against providers for up to four years after an abortion. Oklahoma followed suit, enacting its own civil-enforcement heartbeat law.
So far, the Texas heartbeat law has flummoxed opponents because of its unique enforcement mechanism. Despite multiple legal challenges (including three trips to the Supreme Court), it has been in effect since Sept. 1. Newsom is no doubt hoping for the same result in California.
Assuming the California law does, in fact, shield any and all state officials from the power to enforce it (leaving no procedural questions regarding state actors, as Whole Woman’s Health did), then the law would be insulated from any pre-enforcement challenge. A challenger to the law would then have only one option: let the law go into effect, subject themselves to a private party’s lawsuit, and then raise as an affirmative defense the constitutionality of the law itself.
And that’s where California may have failed.
While the procedural mechanism of using private citizens to keep the law out of court before it goes into effect is the same in both laws, the underlying conduct is not. And any challenger to the law after its enforcement is likely to succeed for that reason.
The two laws are critically different, as evidenced by two seminal opinions from the recently completed term: the right to keep and bear arms is a constitutional one, rooted in the Second Amendment; the right to obtain an abortion, on the other hand, is not a constitutional right.
Texas State Sen. Bryan Hughes, a Republican, the author of the Texas heartbeat law, pointed out this distinction when the California governor made the promise to pass a citizen-enforced handgun law:
I would tell Gov. Newsom good luck with that. If California takes that route, they’ll find that California gun owners will violate the law knowing that they’ll be sued and knowing that the Supreme Court has their back because the right to keep and bear arms is clearly in the Constitution, and the courts have clearly and consistently upheld it.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health addressed only procedural questions surrounding the Texas Heartbeat Act—including an inquiry into whether state licensing officials would have the power to enforce the law, regardless of its delegation to private citizens. Had Texas excluded every state official that could enforce the law and in that way, prevented it from being challenged before enforcement? That, the Supreme Court determined, was a question for the Texas Supreme Court.
But if California has met all its procedural burdens—a court could go right to the heart of the constitutional issue in assessing the California law if challenged. Two questions arise. First, can a State insulate itself from federal court review of a state law that prohibits the exercise of a constitutional right by delegating to the general public the authority to enforce it?
The left-leaning ACLU seems to think it cannot, calling California’s law “an attack on the constitution” for deliberately trying to sidestep judicial review by empowering enforcement by citizens and not government actors, and for undermining due process rights. But assuming this kind of regime is constitutional, the second question would then be is the gun restriction itself constitutional?
These will be questions for the courts. But a recent case might provide a hint on the answer to the second one.
California has already struggled with its weapons ban efforts. Just a few days ago, in its second ruling on California gun laws in a week, the Supreme Court ordered a lower court to revisit its previous ruling upholding the state’s ban on high-capacity gun magazines. While the ban had been upheld in 2021 by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the high court ordered the 9th Circuit to revisit that decision, this time, applying its rationale in New York Rifle v. Bruen.
That means that in analyzing the constitutionality of the weapons ban after enforcement, the reviewing court must examine whether California’s law is consistent with both the text of the Second Amendment, and the history of gun regulations. Whether it can do so remains to be seen, but it is highly doubtful.
At least for now, by “chilling” the ability of gun manufacturers, sellers, and distributors in California to buy and sell these weapons, the state of California has found a way to prevent a court from even getting to that point—that is, unless a gun seller is willing to accept facing a lawsuit and potential damages of $10,000 per violation in the hopes of having the law ruled unconstitutional in the end.
At the very least, Newsom and crew’s gun law is a master class in political grandstanding. In fact, Section 22949.71 of the California law explicitly references the Texas heartbeat law, flagging a possible battle royale at the Supreme Court if a lower court decides that such a civil enforcement mechanism is itself unconstitutional—no matter the purpose of the law, or prohibited conduct:
This chapter shall become inoperative upon invalidation of Subchapter H … of Chapter 171 of the Texas Health and Safety Code in its entirety by a final decision of the United States Supreme Court or Texas Supreme Court, and is repealed on January 1 of the following year.
By incorporating a “we’ll invalidate ours, if a court invalidates yours” provision, Newsom is proving that it’s not really about saving lives, as he’s claimed, but about sticking it to pro-life lawmakers. The Democratic state senator who carried the California bill, Robert Hertzberg, said as much: “It’s all about these two big issues that are facing us. And you can’t have a double standard. You can’t have one standard for guns and another standard for women’s reproductive health. It’s not right.”
“We’re sick and tired of being on the defense in this movement,” Newsom said. “It’s time to put them on the defense. You cannot sell, you cannot manufacture, you cannot transfer these illegal weapons of war and mass destruction in the state of California. And if you do, there are 40 million people that can collect $10,000 from you, and attorney fees, for engaging in that illegal activity.”
Now, with yet another attempt at advancing his gun control agenda, Newsom may have won the day, but could have just set himself up for a constitutional challenge down the road. After New York Rifle, Whole Woman’s Health, and Dobbs, California’s civil enforcement law’s viability is anything but certain.