California governor Gavin Newsom (D.) is launching an initiative to propose a constitutional amendment that would ban most semiautomatic rifles, mandate background checks, raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm, and institute a minimum waiting period on gun purchases.
The governor cited the recent spike in homicides and mass shootings as creating a need for his amendment. Newsom invoked constitutional language, saying the proposal would help America create a "more perfect union" and calling for a constitutional convention to pass the amendment.
Approximately 44 million AR-15s are in circulation in the United States, and millions of other semiautomatic rifles are in private ownership, according to a 2021 study. While Newsom says his push would reduce gun crime, rifles of any kind were only used in 364 of the 13,927 homicides that the FBI logged in 2019. Knives were used in 1,476 murders.
Newsom says his proposed amendment would leave "the Second Amendment intact" and respect America's "gun-owning tradition." Not everyone agrees.
"We've always warned those who cherish their God-given liberties that the ultimate goal of anti-gunners was the abolishment of the Second Amendment," Gun Owners of America senior vice president Erich Pratt said in a statement.
Newsom's push to amend the Constitution is unlikely to succeed. To pass the amendment by constitutional convention, two-thirds of state legislatures would need to back Newsom's initiative. As of 2023, Democrats fully control only 19 out of 50 state legislatures.
Even liberal journalists are skeptical of Newsom's anti-gun crusade.
Politico called the governor's plan "likely quixotic" and "distinctly Newsom" in that it was "designed to draw maximum public attention."
In his announcement of the proposed amendment, which has garnered considerable traction, Newsom directed viewers to the website for a PAC he launched in March. Newsom could use donations to the PAC to help finance a future presidential campaign.