California Gov. Gavin Newsom hasn’t actually announced he’s running for president, but that sure looks like the only thing he hasn’t done before launching a campaign for his party’s nomination.
One of the many things he has done is announce a push for a 28th Amendment, namely one that codifies gun control. He wants to do it via the constitutional convention process, which means getting enough delegates to agree with him.
Regardless, he wants to essentially repeal the Second Amendment–which we already knew, but he’s just made even more clear with this quixotic push of his–and fully interfere with our right to keep and bear arms.
But is it plausible?
I don’t think so, and even some who seem to think it’s a good idea are skeptical.
A new gun control amendment would have “huge” support but would be difficult to achieve, a constitutional expert has said.
Peter Shane, a New York University constitutional law professor, told Newsweek that, while the American public would welcome an amendment on gun control, repeal of the Second Amendment would be almost impossible. The Second Amendment guarantees the right to gun ownership.
“An amendment clarifying the range of permissible reasonable regulation would have a lot of popular support. Of course, translating even huge majority support into congressional votes can prove absurdly difficult, but might be worth the effort to try,” he said.
“An amendment requires a vote of 2/3 of both Houses of Congress and ratification by 3/4 of the states, i.e., 37 [states]. I cannot imagine outright repeal,” Shane said.
That’s because it’s never going to happen. Newsom’s proposal has only a slightly better chance because it only codifies certain things, such as an assault weapon ban, magazine restrictions, and universal background checks.
But that doesn’t make it likely to pass, either.
After all, despite polling that Shane seems to think suggests there’s some groundswell of support for these measures, there really isn’t. We know that support for gun control tends to be more than a little squishy when the rubber meets the road. That means that popular support probably isn’t as popular as people think.
Moreover, that support is centered in a handful of places that aren’t able to overwhelm the rest of the nation. Considering that more than half the states are constitutional carry, it’s unlikely they’re going to be tripping over themselves to ratify a gun control amendment.
What really bugs me, though, is Shane’s idea that we need to do something.
Shane said the need for clarity on gun ownership has been elevated by last year’s Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, in which the Supreme Court urged lower courts to ensure that gun laws are “consistent with the nation’s historical tradition.”
“There are a lot of gun regulations on the books throughout the country. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court decision in Bruen has generated huge uncertainty as to what kinds of regulation are permissible,” Shane said.
Shane, however, isn’t a fan of the constitutional convention route, which means he’s saner than Newsom is. A convention would open the door to a lot of things people like Newsom wouldn’t want, which is just one reason it would be a bad idea.
But he’s wrong about Bruen. It didn’t complicate things nearly as much as some want to believe. What it did was tell people that our rights have to be respected and that gun control has to be something we have a legitimate reason to believe the Founding Fathers would have been fine with, namely that it mimics something from their time.
Where people like this have a problem is that it doesn’t allow their preferred gun control measures to stand. It’s not difficult to see where Bruen lays down the law. It’s difficult to figure out how to justify blatantly unconstitutional measures.
Which is why so many want to see a gun control amendment passed.
They’re missing one key fact, though. At some point, if this were ratified, there will be a challenge for some other gun control law and the fact that this amendment only covers those specific things would be used to argue that it implies that other gun control measures aren’t to be permitted.
Either way, it’s not likely to happen, so people like Shane and Newsom can learn to live with disappointment.