(CALMATTERS) – What do a lawmaker who proudly boasts of a 0% rating from the National Rifle Association and a longtime advocate for firearms have in common?
A warning to the California Legislature that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s resolution calling for a constitutional convention to adopt new gun control measures could open up a far bigger can of political worms.
The proposal — which seeks to amend the U.S. Constitution to raise the minimum age for buying firearms to 21, require a background check and a waiting period for all gun purchases, and ban assault weapons — received its first hearing Tuesday in the Senate Public Safety Committee.
Debate centered on a legal theory, which has been raised with increasing alarm even by some who support Newsom’s efforts on gun safety, that organizers cannot limit a constitutional convention to a single subject, thereby opening the door for untold other changes to our nation’s laws.
Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, noted that the last constitutional convention, back in 1787, was intended merely to revise the Articles of Confederation — but instead produced an entirely new governing document for the country. He suggested that Newsom’s resolution was an admission that the policies Democrats favor to limit access to firearms are otherwise illegal.
- Paredes: “We have testified on all of these gun bills that have come before you and said they are unconstitutional. If you don’t like it, change the Constitution. Thank you for trying. Thank you for taking our suggestion.”
Among the other groups that registered opposition at the hearing was the California chapter of Convention of States, which is pushing for a constitutional convention to limit the power of the federal government.
Several Democratic members of the committee acknowledged the concerns about what else might come from a constitutional convention, but said they were assuaged by a provision to void the resolution if the convention addressed any other subjects. Legal experts said it is undetermined whether that language would be legally binding.
Then there was Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat with the 0% NRA rating. While he supports all of the gun control policies in the proposal and would even go further, Wiener said, he could not support convening a constitutional convention.
- Wiener: “We know that the same extremists that have completely rewritten the Second Amendment also would like to rewrite reproductive health access, LGBTQ rights, they want to get rid of the separation of church and state, they want to undermine voting rights.”
When the Democratic majority on the committee advanced the resolution 3-1, Wiener did not join them, abstaining from the vote.
His hesitation hardly dooms its prospects, however. The resolution, which needs a simple majority to pass, already has 23 authors and coauthors in the 40-member Senate.