HomeUSANewsom Says He'll Push Gun Control Constitutional Amendment... Just Not This Year

Newsom Says He’ll Push Gun Control Constitutional Amendment… Just Not This Year

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It’s been exactly one year since California Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his plan for a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; one that would enshrine a ban on the sale of “assault weapons”, prohibit under-21s from purchasing firearms, mandate “universal” background checks, and impose a “reasonable” waiting period on firearm transfers into the Constitution. Since then the only real action has come from Newsom’s fellow Democrats in Sacramento, who passed a resolution in support of his anti-gun demands last September.

According to Newsom’s staff, his plan hasn’t flamed out due to lack of support outside of California. They’ve just been so busy laying the groundwork for their amendment that they won’t get around to really pushing hard for it’s adoption until next year.

Newsom spokesperson Nathan Click said the governor’s team focused this past year on laying the groundwork for the campaign, which they plan to reinvigorate in 2025, when most states will begin new legislative sessions. That has primarily involved getting the public invested through the online petition, which is effectively a way to expand the political action committee’s mailing list, and by training volunteers.

“We’re under no illusions of how hard it is to pass a constitutional amendment, so that’s why we’ve focused on building this grassroots army to help these legislators,” Click said. “It’s not just a bill introduction. It’s a bill introduction, and people on the ground who are willing to fight.”

But the lack of progress so far raises questions about whether Newsom is seriously pursuing the constitutional amendment, which he has acknowledged faces overwhelming hurdles to becoming law, or whether it’s merely savvy political messaging.

Well, let’s see. He issued his first big press release demanding a constitutional amendment one year ago today, but has yet to announce any formal campaign to start the ball rolling outside of California. When the California legislature passed a resolution calling for an Article V convention to adopt Newsom’s proposed amendment, Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, who led the effort to adopt the resolution, said it “was supposed to put it on the map and keep it on the map”, which at least indicates that Newsom and his supporters believed that the action would lead to other blue states to follow suit. 

That hasn’t happened, perhaps because they’re savvy enough to look at a map and realize there’s no way in hell that Newsom’s amendment stand a chance of passage. In order for his proposed amendment to become law, Newsom would have get approval from 38 states.. including at least 17 states that have adopted Constitutional Carry. Maybe Newsom could get Maine’s delegation to sign on, but after that, there’s not really any friendly territory for Newsom to advance his terrible idea.

Click noted that many of those states have part-time legislatures that will not reconvene until next year, after this November’s election. He said Newsom’s team has been working with legislators in other states to introduce resolutions in 2025, though he declined to provide any specifics.

“Given the nature, we’re not trying to tip off the opposition,” he said.

If you weren’t trying to tip off the opposition then why release any statement at all, or have the California legislature pass its resolution in support of the idea nine months ago? That just doesn’t make any sense. 

Democratic-controlled states such as New York, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts and Hawaii did have sessions this year, however, without calling for a constitutional convention on gun control.

CalMatters contacted the offices of legislative leaders in those five states to ask whether their caucuses had considered Newsom’s plan. Many did not respond to numerous inquiries, but representatives for New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, Illinois House Speaker Emanuel Chris Welch and Michigan House Speaker Joe Tate said it had not come up for discussion and they were not aware of any outreach from Newsom’s team.

I think it’s telling that even Newsom’s fellow anti-gun governors like New Jersey’s Phil Murphy and New York’s Kathy Hochul haven’t echoed his call for a constitutional convention to enshrine gun control as the 28th Amendment. It’s also worth noting that Newsom’s online petition is attached to his political action committee, not to a separate entity that exists solely to advance the proposed amendment. 

If Newsom does start pushing hard for the constitutional amendment in 2025, it’s not going to be because he sees a legitimate path forward for the language. Instead, it will be a signal that he’s running for president in 2028. Newsom might actually stand a chance of capturing the Democratic nomination four years from now, but there’s no way that his amendment is getting into the Constitution anytime soon.  

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