Gov. Gavin Newsom proposes constitutional amendment to tighten access to guns

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday he is proposing an amendment to the United States Constitution that would enshrine into law gun regulations including universal background checks and raising the minimum age to buy a firearm to 21, his latest foray into national politics.

Newsom’s proposed 28th Amendment would also institute what he called a "reasonable" waiting period for all gun purchases and ban assault rifles throughout the country.

"The gun lobby says we can’t stop the carnage America now experiences every day without violating the 2nd Amendment – that thoughts and prayers are the best we can do ... that’s a lie," Newsom said in a statement. "In this country, we do have the power to change things. That power is written into the Constitution, and today we’re using it to end America’s gun violence crisis."

His pitch for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution will be an uphill battle — a new amendment has not been added since 1992.

Amending the Constitution requires either approval from two-thirds of the members of Congress or for 33 states to support the effort and call for holding a constitutional convention. Newsom said he plans to try to win approval from other states rather than Congress, though Republicans hold more power in statehouses across the country.

Newsom told NBC’s "The Today Show" in an interview that the proposal is in response to the courts rolling back several gun safety laws. For example, in 2022, the Supreme Court rejected a century-old New York law that made it difficult to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun.

As of early May, the U.S. was on a record pace for mass killings, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in a partnership with Northeastern University. The database counts killings involving four or more fatalities, not including the perpetrator, the same standard as the FBI, and tracks a number of variables for each.

"There’s not a parent out there, not one parent, you included, that doesn’t think about these things when you send your kids to school," Newsom told NBC.

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Newsom, who handily won re-election in 2022, said he will run his efforts through his new political action committee, Campaign for Democracy. He ended his last campaign with more than $16 million left in his political account, some of which will be spent on his new effort.

It’s yet another step for Newsom onto the national political stage. In recent months, he’s campaigned for Democrats in Republican-led states and urged the national Democratic Party to get more aggressive in its defense of abortion access, LGBTQ+ rights and a host of other progressive stances. During his easy re-election campaign, he spent money on ads in Florida and Texas to poke at the policies of his rivals, Republican governors Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott.

He’s said he does not plan to seek the presidency, but he is widely viewed as a likely future candidate.

Newsom said he will work with supporters, elected and civic leaders and "broad and diverse coalitions" to push for resolutions on the amendment to be passed in other state legislatures. He said he believes he can be successful because a majority of Americans say they want stricter gun laws. Despite that, significant new gun regulations have been nearly impossible to pass and Republicans resistant to more restrictions hold power in far more states.