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Gavin Newsom takes wild swing with proposed constitutional amendment for gun safety


California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference on Thursday, May 25, 2023, in Richmond, California. (AP Photo/Adam Beam)

The governor of California has launched an effort to change the U.S. Constitution by proposing an amendment exclusively containing gun safety provisions.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his intention on Thursday to propose the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would “permanently enshrine four broadly supported gun safety principles into the U.S. Constitution.”

Those principles, according to Newsom:

  • Raising the federal minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21;
  • Mandating universal background checks to prevent truly dangerous people from purchasing a gun that could be used in a crime;
  • Instituting a reasonable waiting period for all gun purchases; and
  • Barring civilian purchase of assault weapons that serve no other purpose than to kill as many people as possible in a short amount of time – weapons of war our nation’s founders never foresaw.

Newsom says the proposed amendment aligns with existing gun rights under the Constitution, enshrined in the Second Amendment and increasingly expanded by the Supreme Court.

“While leaving the 2nd Amendment unchanged and respecting America’s gun-owning tradition, the Governor’s proposal guarantees common sense constitutional protections and gun safety measures that Democrats, Republicans, independent voters, and gun owners overwhelmingly support,” the announcement from Newsom’s office says.

The governor said he used his state’s gun safety laws to guide his amendment proposal effort.

“With gun violence claiming the lives of over 110 Americans a day, California’s nation-leading gun safety laws serve as a valuable blueprint for other states and Congress to save lives,” Newsom said, citing statistics that align with findings from the CDC.

“California’s gun safety laws work,” Newsom added. “In its most recent scorecard, California ranked as the #1 state for gun safety by the Giffords Law Center, and according to the most recent data, the state saw a 37% lower gun death rate than the national average. According to the CDC, California’s gun death rate was the 44th lowest in the nation, with 9 gun deaths per 100,000 people – compared to 16.36 deaths per 100,000 nationally, 33.9 in Mississippi, 21.2 in Oklahoma, and 15.6 in Texas.”

Newsom has plenty of hurdles to clear before the proposed amendment can be passed. The process begins either by Congress, which may submit a proposed amendment to the states only if the language of the amendment is approved by a two-thirds vote of both houses.

Alternatively, if state legislatures from two-thirds of the states — 34 out of 50 — then Congress must call a convention. The amendment will be added to the Constitution only if three-fourths of all the states — 38 out of 50 — ratify the amendment.

Newsom said that he intends for California to be “the first state in the nation to call for such a convention with a joint resolution,” introduced by two Democratic state lawmakers, Senator Aisha Wahab and Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer.

Newsom says getting the amendment off the ground will be a group effort and that he will work with “grassroots supporters, elected and civic leaders, and broad and diverse coalitions across the nation to fight for the passage of similar resolutions in other state legislatures to ensure the convening of a constitutional convention limited to this subject.”

Gun violence is the leading cause of death in American children, according to the CDC.

“Our ability to make a more perfect union is literally written into the Constitution,” Newsom said in the announcement. “So today, I’m proposing the 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution to do just that.”

Unsurprisingly, conservatives do not appear to be on board with Newsom’s effort.

“Gov. Newsom, I am willing to debate you on this in Mississippi any time,” wrote Tate Reeves, the Republican governor of Mississippi, whose rate of gun deaths far outpaces that of California. “So on your next trip to our state to campaign for my opponent, give me a call.”

“Can’t wait for you to defend the fact that Mississippi has the highest gun violence death rate in the nation … (377% higher than California’s, by the way),” Newsom shot back on Twitter. “You can’t be serious.”

The National Rifle Association, meanwhile, railed against Newsom’s “California-style gun control” and complained that his “unhinged contempt for the right to self-defense has no bounds.”

The Constitution was last amended in 1992 when the 27th Amendment was ratified. It says that if Congress votes to give itself a pay raise, it will only take effect after the next election.

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