Gavin Newsom wants constitutional amendment on guns

California Gov. Gavin Newsom discusses the recent mass shooting in Texas, during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Flanked by lawmakers from both houses of the state legislature, Newsom said he is ready to sign more restrictive gun measures passed by lawmakers.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared Thursday he will crusade for a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on gun control — and if he wanted more national attention, he certainly got it as  supporters praised and critics slammed his bold ambition.

As CalMatters colleagues Ben Christopher and Alexei Koseff explain, the amendment is pretty straightforward: It would raise the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21, mandate universal background checks, institute a “reasonable” waiting period for gun purchases and ban civilians from buying assault weapons.

It’s the next move by a governor who typically tweets outrage after every mass shooting. 

  • Newsom, to Politico: “I got four damn kids, dude, I can’t take it anymore…. It’s absolute insanity. And the biggest and most insane thing we can do is the same old BS and just point fingers. So, let’s give this a shot.”

The first step on what he acknowledged will be a very long and difficult journey for the amendment to become law of the land: Getting the bill through the Legislature, where it will be shepherded by the fellow Democrats who lead the public safety committees, Sen. Aisha Wahab of Fremont and Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles. 

  • Jones-Sawyer, to reporters: “This is the most comprehensive way we can make a big, huge impact on mass shootings here in America.”

After that, 33 other states would have to approve the amendment to call a constitutional convention, or two-thirds of Congress would have to sign off. And then 38 states would need to ratify the amendment.

Money to support his amendment campaign will come from his new Campaign for Democracy political action committee, which also funded his cross-country tour in March and was seeded by leftover cash from his 2022 reelection.

The governor announced his plans to Politico and NBC’s Today show — the latest example of Newsom debuting major proposals with a national news outlet. Newsom will likely stir up more headlines on Monday, when he’s expected to talk to Fox News host Sean Hannity about the amendment, California and “the current state of democratic politics.” It will be his first interview with Fox in 13 years.

Amid the media blitz, Newsom again denied any presidential ambitions, telling reporters it’s “not part of the calculation for anything I do.” But he did pick more fights with Republican-led states, lecturing Mississippi’s governor on Twitter for its high rate of gun violence.

Closer to home, legislative Republicans railed against the governor, arguing that he should prioritize issues in California.

  • GOP Assembly leader James Gallagher of Chico, in a statement: “Newsom’s proposal is a poorly thought out, attention-seeking stunt from a governor desperate to distract from his ever-growing record of failure.”

California has some of the nation’s strictest gun control laws, but some efforts to pass even more restrictive legislation have been blocked by federal courts. Most recently, a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court ruling will loosen some requirements on concealed carry permits in California.

The state also continues to struggle enforcing the very gun measures Newsom is eager to tout, including disarming violent domestic abusers and those who pose a danger to themselves or others.

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