The many problems with Gavin Newsom’s anti-gun constitutional amendment

This proposal is deeply flawed.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom hasn’t exactly made a name for himself as a supporter of people’s Second Amendment rights. He’s pushed a lot of gun control during his time as governor, after all. Additionally, Newsom has been critical of the lack of federal gun control during that same time. Yet he’s also apparently got a unique idea to solve this supposed issue.

The thinking likely has a lot to do with these four bits of gun control polling pretty well as a general rule, thus making them a bit more likely to garner the needed support to pass as a constitutional amendment. However, it also suggests Newsom is unaware of just how hard it is to pass such an amendment.

A constitutional amendment isn’t something that can just happen on a whim. It takes more than a simple majority in the legislature, too.

There are two methods for passing such an amendment. The first is if three-fourths of both chambers of Congress pass it or if three-fourths of states ask for one following a constitutional convention. In either case, such an amendment would need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

In other words, it’s not easy to amend the Constitution. This is a feature, not a bug. The Founding Fathers wanted to make sure the Constitution could change when needed, but that such a change couldn’t be made easily, or else the document itself would be all but meaningless, subject to the whims of the majority.

Yet Newsom somehow sees this as the answer to the lack of gun control.

To be fair, if he wants to make sure such measures could survive legal challenges, this is the right way to achieve that. It doesn’t mean the policies are sound, mind you, only that they’d then be constitutional regardless of the Second Amendment’s text.

However, there are significant problems with this proposal.

The first is that there’s little chance of such a thing passing. More than half of the states currently have constitutional carry, which serves as something of a proxy for a state’s openness to gun control. If 26 states have no interest in requiring a permit to carry a firearm, it’s unlikely they’ll support things like universal background checks or waiting periods for guns.

So how then does Newsom figure such an amendment could get the three-fourths majority in both Congress and the states to sign off? Especially when this is, at least in part, motivated by Congress not passing measures like this.

As for the measures themselves, there are still other problems. It’s easy to suggest this in a tweet, but actually putting it into practice is a different matter.

For example, how can an amendment easily define an “assault weapon” when even the ATF director can’t?

Raising the age to buy a gun to 21 means those under that age are essentially second-class citizens.

Universal background checks don’t impact criminals in the least but do make it harder for law-abiding citizens to buy, sell, or even loan firearms to other people.

In other words, none of these measures will make anyone safer and are likely unworkable as an amendment.

Then again, Newsom calls these measures “gun safety freedoms” when they’re neither about gun safety nor are they freedoms, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that he floated such an unlikely idea.

This is one of those things that will likely play well with his constituents in California but won’t do anything nationally. That’s good, because this proposal is little more than a trainwreck in the making.

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Tom Knighton
Tom Knighton
Tom Knighton is a Navy veteran, a former newspaperman, a novelist, and a lifetime shooter who has increasingly focused on Second Amendment issues. He lives with his family in Southwest Georgia.