A slow start for Newsom’s gun plan

By Lara Korte, Jeremy B. White and Dustin Gardiner
Published October 27, 2023
DRIVING THE DAY: Gov. Gavin Newsom is again in Beijing today. Our intrepid colleague Blanca Begert is traveling with the governor during his tour. You can read her coverage in the California Climate newsletter.
THE BUZZ: Newsom says the country needs to take urgent action on gun violence. But other states have been slow to adopt his ambitious plan.
It’s been nearly five months since the governor proposed calling a constitutional convention to restrict gun ownership. Mass shootings — including the one in Maine on Wednesday — have continued to rattle the nation. Following the tragedy in Lewiston, Newsom again called for the amendment and sent out a fundraising appeal for his Campaign for Democracy PAC.
The governor’s office says it is in the outreach stage, and another Democratic governor’s office confirmed making contact. But no other states’ Democratic officials — let alone Republican ones — have joined California in introducing a resolution.
That’s deepening doubts about the governor’s crusade.
“It’s good politics,” said Eric Jaye, a Democratic campaign consultant who worked for and then against Newsom, but “I don’t think many people who have looked at this closely think there’s a very good chance.”
So far, the concrete gains have been limited to California. Newsom had no trouble persuading the state’s resoundingly Democratic Legislature to pass a resolution calling for a constitutional convention.
That was the first, easy step in a much more arduous journey. Newsom’s campaign has made preliminary moves in advancing the cause by reaching out to legislators in other states, spokesperson Nathan Click said, hoping to persuade them to take up the mantle when legislative sessions resume next year.
“We’re in the relationship-building phase,” Click said.
Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), who carried the California resolution for Newsom, said in an interview that while he believed the Maine shooting could galvanize the campaign, he had not conferred with the governor’s team on expanding into other states.
“We have not sat down to come up with a comprehensive plan or strategy,” Jones-Sawyer said.
Some liberal constitutional scholars and progressive Democrats have urged Newsom to switch his approach. Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), normally a resolute Newsom ally, refused to vote for the constitutional resolution out of fears “extremists” could hijack the effort to roll back reproductive and LGBTQ rights.
Others like UCLA Professor Adam Winkler, an expert in constitutional law and gun policy, consider Newsom’s push to be symbolic.
“I don’t think he seriously believes we’re going to get a constitutional amendment anytime soon,” Winkler said. “If he does, he hasn’t spent enough time studying American politics.”