California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed gun control amendment to the Constitution is making all kinds of headlines. Most in the media seem intrigued; as if this is a bold idea that has a real chance of coming to fruition.
However, you’d think people who cover politics and gun policy might actually be familiar with the amendment process, all of which makes it difficult to pass any kind of amendment by design.
Yet an interesting publication did bother to look at that. The Sacramento Bee, the largest paper in the capital of the state Newsom is governor of, seems to understand that this just isn’t happening.
But exactly how feasible is Newsom’s ambitious plan? “It’s not technically impossible,” said UC Davis constitutional law professor Carlton Larson.
“But it’s essentially impossible.”
There are two ways to amend the U.S. Constitution: the first, which has been successful 27 times in American history, is that two-thirds of both Houses of Congress pass the amendment.
The second, which has been successful zero times, is when two-thirds of state legislatures call for a constitutional convention. It’s not especially rare for a Governor to call for such a convention — Florida Gov. and 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis did so earlier this year in effort to set term limits for members of Congress.
But actually garnering two-thirds of state legislatures, or 33 states, is the “essentially impossible” part of the process.
“You don’t have 33 other state legislatures that would be on board with (Newsom’s) proposal,” Larson said. “We just don’t get Constitutional amendments without strong bipartisan support.”
Larson is right on this. Completely right.
Let’s be honest here, part of the motivator behind Newsom’s proposal is that he and folks like him can’t seem to get gun control passed at the federal level no matter how many polls say it’s popular.
Yet passing laws is a whole lot easier than amending the Constitution.
If you can’t pass a universal background check law, how do you expect to pass it in amendment form?
To put the states issue in perspective, 20 states have universal background check laws. By contrast, there are 26 states with some form of permitless carry.
Now, if only 20 states have enough support for universal background checks to pass their own laws, how is Newsom going to get two-thirds to agree with a constitutional amendment that tries to require it?
A lot of the media is out there right now pretending this is a legitimate thing; like this is historic or even plausible. It seems the paper of record in the city Newsom currently gets his mail in is the only mainstream media publication that actually decided to look at the plausibility of his proposal.
It’s not going to happen. It’s never going to happen.
Instead, Newsom is likely laying the groundwork for a presidential bid, either in four years or even this campaign cycle should President Joe Biden withdraw from the race. This isn’t a serious proposal and it wasn’t made by a serious person.
It’s grandstanding that is meant to look like a solution but can’t be taken as one by anyone familiar with the amendment process.