California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday called for the country to adopt an amendment to the Constitution that would challenge the core of the Second Amendment by writing new gun controls into the government’s founding document.
He said California will lead the way in proposing a new constitutional convention to propose the amendment.
Mr. Newsom said his proposal would create a national minimum age of 21 for purchasing a firearm, would mandate “universal” background checks for gun sales, create a waiting period between purchase and pickup, and ban civilian purchases of “assault weapons that serve no other purpose than to kill as many people as possible in a short amount of time.”
“Our ability to make a more perfect union is literally written into the Constitution,” Mr. Newsom said in a statement. “The 28th Amendment will enshrine in the Constitution common sense gun safety measures that Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and gun owners overwhelmingly support – while leaving the 2nd Amendment unchanged and respecting America’s gun-owning tradition.”
The idea is a long shot — it’s been more than 50 years since a new amendment was proposed and ratified. But in suggesting the need for a change to the constitution, Mr. Newsom appears to be conceding that gun control advocates have lost the legal momentum.
The Supreme Court, in a series of decisions, has ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to obtain and possess firearms. Those decisions say states, or Congress, can adopt some gun controls, but in a major ruling last year the high court said those restrictions must be ones that would have rung true at the time the Second Amendment was adopted.
That ruling struck down a New York law that had limited gun owners’ ability to obtain a concealed-carry permit.
In the wake of that decision, and fueled by a spate of high-profile shootings, Democrat-dominated states have rushed to pass new gun controls. Often, however, they’ve run up against judges who say they’ve gone too far.
A constitutional amendment would reset the debate and reopen avenues for gun control that appear to be off-limits under the court’s current precedent.
For example, a federal judge last month ruled unconstitutional a law banning gun sales to people under 21 years of age — one of the features that Mr. Newsom’s proposal would enshrine.
Courts are also wrestling with the legality of a broad “assault weapons” ban.
Mr. Newsom said that his amendment, in addition to his four specific proposals, would also grant Congress, states and localities the leeway to adopt other “common-sense gun safety regulations.”
In calling for a constitutional convention, Mr. Newsom is harnessing a tactic that has been a favorite of conservatives, who for years have been trying to organize a convention to propose a balanced budget amendment.
But the convention route has never been tried, and is fraught with tricky questions about what the proceedings would look like, and whether they could be restricted to a single issue.
All 27 current amendments to the Constitution have been proposed by Congress.
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