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Gavin Newsom Calls for Longshot Proposal: Amend Constitution for Gun Reforms

Newsom says the amendment is necessary because “a lot of the laws we’ve passed are being rolled back by federal courts.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to union workers and volunteers on election day at the IBEW Local 6 union hall on September 14, 2021, in San Francisco, California.

On Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) proposed a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution to address gun violence in the United States.

The proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution, Newsom said on his official government website, would enact “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 amendment would instill specific items long sought after by gun reform advocates. It would, for example, raise the federal minimum age to purchase any firearm, currently at 18, to 21 years of age, as well as mandate universal background checks, Newsom’s press release said. The amendment would also create a “reasonable waiting period” for all gun purchases, and bar the purchase of assault weapons altogether.

In an interview with “The Today Show” that aired on Thursday, Newsom said that the amendment is necessary due to courts across the country — including the conservative-led U.S. Supreme Court — overturning gun laws in states that have decided to place greater restrictions on ownership.

“A lot of the laws we’ve passed are being rolled back by federal courts,” Newsom explained.

The amendment process is a difficult one, particularly in today’s deeply partisan climate. To have an amendment proposed to the states, as outlined in Article V of the Constitution, requires two-thirds congressional approval, or two-thirds of all states agreeing; after either of those two actions happen, three-quarters of all states must agree to ratify the measure before it becomes an official amendment.

Because more than half of state legislatures are run by the Republican Party, which is vehemently opposed to almost all gun reform, passage of such an amendment appears unlikely. But Newsom has said it’s still worth pursuing “because [Republicans’] constituency demands it,” noting that recent polling data shows that most Americans support the measures that are laid out in his proposed amendment.

Many amendments have been passed after initially facing strong opposition. Although the 19th Amendment, which recognizes the right of women to vote, was first proposed in 1878, it took Congress four decades to finally pass a resolution sending it to the states for ratification, which they did in 1920. The last amendment to the Constitution, the 27th Amendment, which places restrictions on how lawmakers in Congress can give themselves pay raises, was first passed as a resolution by Congress in 1789 alongside the Bill of Rights, but wasn’t ratified by three-quarters of the states until 1992.

Although it could take several decades for a proposal like Newsom’s to pass, the California governor said he’s confident it could be enacted much sooner.

Asked if it could be passed at some point in his lifetime, Newsom said, “I hope so,” adding, “If you don’t start, it will never happen.”

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