California passes call for constitutional convention on guns

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

California Gov. Gavin Newsom floated his idea for a 28th Amendment that would codify certain gun control measures into the Constitution and called for a constitutional convention to pass it.


It’s kind of hilarious because gun control advocates can’t get these things passed as actual laws at the federal level, but they’re sure getting them in as a constitutional amendment would be easier.

Apparently, none of them ever took civics.

Regardless, Newsom’s effort required the state legislature to actually pass a call for a constitutional convention. On Thursday, the legislature did just that.

California lawmakers on Thursday approved Gov. Gavin Newsom’s resolution calling for a constitutional convention of the states to consider a new amendment on gun control, a politically astute yet seemingly unattainable proposal from the Democratic leader.

The governor introduced the proposal on national television over the summer, boosting his profile in the culture wars between Democrats and Republicans at a time when many voters feel increasingly frustrated over the lack of action in Washington to address mass shootings that have anguished communities all over the country. But constitutional scholars have warned that Newsom’s plan could be risky by opening the door for other changes to the U.S. Constitution if a convention took place.

Newsom’s resolution asks Congress to call a constitutional convention to allow states to approve an amendment that imposes new laws requiring universal background checks on gun purchases, raises the federal minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21, institutes a “reasonable waiting” period for all gun purchases and prohibits the sale of assault weapons to the public. The resolution also calls for states to be able to approve an amendment to affirm that federal, state and local governments may adopt safety regulations limiting firearm sales, possession and carrying guns in public.

For Newsom’s proposed 28th Amendment to be considered, legislatures in two-thirds of the states must vote in favor of a constitutional convention.


And, to be fair, according to Common Cause 28 states have already called for a convention, with California being the 29th.

So it would really just take a few more to reach that threshold.

Robert A. Schapiro, dean of the University of San Diego School of Law, and other scholars note that it’s hard to imagine that the gun control protections would be approved even if a convention were called. Republicans control more than half of the state legislatures, some of which have recently reduced gun restrictions, and amendments to the Constitution must be ratified by three-fourths of the states to become law.

They also contend that if a constitutional conventional did take place, it’s possible for Republican states to propose other amendments to ban abortion or gay marriage, for example, through the untested process.

Again, as Common Cause notes at the previous link, there aren’t any rules for a constitutional convention outlined in the Constitution. While California wants Newsom’s proposal, there’s absolutely no way to limit a convention to just that.

Plus, as also noted, even if you did get everyone willing to talk about guns, there’s little chance Newsom’s proposal would go anywhere at all. Granted, I don’t think some of the other things would go anywhere, either, but they’re at least as strong of a possibility as any gun control proposal.

And it’s not like this wasn’t discussed prior to this passing, either. It’s been brought up repeatedly. Newsom, however, either thinks he can win this or–and I think this is more likely–he knows he can’t and is just grandstanding for an eventual presidential run.


Either way, California is now calling for a constitutional convention and we’re one step closer to seeing that happen.

What will follow should make for some very interesting battles, but that’s for tomorrow.

For today, Newsom and the California legislature just opened the door for all sorts of other things due to their myopic view of guns. It’ll be interesting to see if history ultimately vilifies them for it.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member