Newsom Faces Backlash on Plan to Add Gun Ownership Restrictions to Constitution

Gun Rights

The National Rifle Association (NRA), the leading gun ownership advocacy group in the United States, is having none of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the 28th in the nation’s history, to instate what he calls “common sense gun safety measures.”

The NRA responded immediately to Newsom’s June 7 announcement, describing it as a coy publicity maneuver, and sleight of hand, to weaken gun rights in the name of protecting the public.

In a release that Newsom’s office issued, the governor said that the 28th Amendment he seeks will make changes to the Constitution that “Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and gun owners overwhelmingly support–while leaving the 2nd Amendment unchanged and respecting America’s gun-owning tradition.”

Newsom’s amendment would raise the federal minimum age for a gun purchase from 18 to 21, put in place background checks that would block dangerous individuals from purchasing guns, enact a “reasonable waiting period” for firearms purchases, and bar civilian purchase of assault weapons. 

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An NRA sticker is on display as people gather for the 12th annual Second Amendment March outside of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., on Sept. 23, 2021. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images)

The NRA followed Newsom’s statement with a comment it sent to Fox News: “Newsom’s latest publicity stunt once again shows that his unhinged contempt for the right to self-defense has no bounds. California is a beacon for violence because of Newsom’s embrace of policies that champion the criminal and penalize the law-abiding. That is why the majority of Americans rightfully reject his California-style gun control.”

A politician quick to speak out against Newsom’s amendment plan was Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a legislator who has eased access to guns in his state.

Reeves shared on his Twitter page a video that Newsom had tweeted in which he made his case for the amendment. Reeves included the following message with his post: “Gov. Newsom, I am willing to debate you on this in Mississippi any time. So on your next trip to our state to campaign for my opponent, give me a call.”

An Ambitious Strategy

While in office, Newsom has been at the forefront of calling for more gun regulation, and for exploring legislative tactics and opportunities to enact that regulation. 

His most recent strategy and tactic to change gun law is particularly ambitious.

Article V of the Constitution provides for and spells out, though not in detail, the necessary process to amend the document that describes and lays out the foundational laws, and governing principles and philosophies, of the United States.

In accordance with Article V, there are two ways to propose an amendment: by Congress, with at least two-thirds of both the House and Senate supporting the measure; or through a constitutional convention called for by at least two-thirds of state legislatures. For a proposed amendment to become an amendment to the Constitution, it must be ratified by the legislatures or conventions in three-fourths (38) of the 50 states.  

Newsom said that California will be the first state to call for a constitutional convention. 

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution, collectively called the Bill of Rights, were enacted in 1791.  

For more than two centuries, legal minds, historians, scholars, and others have debated and written and spoken about the meaning, and what is provided and allowed for, in the Second Amendment, which reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The most recent amendment to the Constitution, on the matter of congressional pay, was proposed in 1789, and the states got around to ratifying it in 1992.  

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