Law professor analyzes Gov. Newsom’s call for a federal constitutional convention
CALIFORNIA LAWMAKERS RECENTLY PASSED GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM’S RESOLUTION –
TO AMEND THE U-S CONSTITUTION VIA A CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION.
THE PROPOSED 28TH AMENDMENT – IF PASSED – WOULD TIGHTEN GUN RESTRICTIONS ACROSS THE COUNTRY.
“the 28th amendment permanently enshrines four additions to the laws of our land. It raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21… because if you can’t buy a beer, you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. It mandates universal background checks to prevent truly dangerous people from purchasing a gun that can be used in a crime. institutes reasonable waiting periods for all gun purchases and it bans civilians from buying assault rifles… those weapons of war our founding fathers never foresaw.”
NEWSOM FIRST PROPOSED THE 28TH AMENDMENT IN JUNE –
SAYING HE WAS CALLING ON “COMMON SENSE GUN REFORM” THAT “DEMOCRATS, REPUBLICANS, INDEPENDENTS, AND GUN OWNERS OVERWHELMINGLY SUPPORT.”
HOWEVER – THE PROCESS TO GET THIS DONE IS OVERWHELMINGLY COMPLICATED.
EITHER TWO-THIRDS OF EACH HOUSE OF THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS MUST AGREE TO THE NEW AMENDMENT – which THEN MUST BE RATIFIED BY THREE-FOURTHS OF THE STATES – WHICH IS THE ONLY WAY IT’S BEEN DONE IN OUR COUNTRY SINCE THE RATIFICATION OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS…
OR TWO-THIRDS OF STATE LEGISLATURES CALL FOR A CONVENTION FOR THE PURPOSE OF AMENDING THE CONSTITUTION. ANY AMENDMENT THAT COMES OUT OF THAT CONVENTION MUST ALSO BE RATIFIED BY THREE QUARTERS OF THE STATES.
ERIC BERGER IS AN EARL DUNLAP DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF LAW AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA AT LINCOLN AND SAYS A CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION COULD BE A DANGEROUS ROUTE TO TAKE.
“I think one of the things that’s so dangerous about this is that nobody knows and we’re so politically polarized right now that I don’t think we would even agree on the ground rules which could make it really deeply contentious and potentially even dangerous.”
DANGEROUS BECAUSE THE CONSTITUTION DOESN’T SPECIFY THE RULES OF HOLDING A CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION. TECHNICALLY THE RULES ARE OPEN.
AND THERE ARE LOTS OF QUESTIONS…
DO THE STATE LEGISLATURES WRITE THE RULES?
DOES CONGRESS WRITE THE RULES?
DOES THE CONVENTION ITSELF WRITE ITS OWN RULES?
AND HOW ARE THE MEMBERS OF THE CONVENTION SELECTED AND
WHAT TOPICS ARE THEY LIMITED TO DISCUSS? OR CAN THEY TALK ABOUT ANYTHING?
“because of the rules of the game are so up in the air. It’s easy to imagine a situation in which whichever side loses thinks that the game was rigged against them. And given our deep partisan divisions in this country, you know, I do worry that it could, you know, spiral into, you know, potentially violence or at least deepen the already bad political animus.”
SO, IT’S UNCLEAR WHAT A MODERN-DAY CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION WOULD LOOK LIKE.
And THE ONLY CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION THIS COUNTRY HAS EVER SEEN HAPPENED BACK IN 1787… WHEN THE U-S CONSTITUTION WAS DRAFTED.
5:38 “And in some sense, that was a runaway convention. That convention was called to amend the Articles of Confederation. And pretty early on in that meeting, the delegates agreed that the articles were hopelessly broken and needed to be replaced with something entirely different. It’s not inconceivable that the same kind of thing could happen with a new constitutional convention today.”
AND EVEN IF ALL THE DELEGATES AGREED TO THE CONVENTION GROUND RULES…
AND IF THEY STUCK WITH THE SINGLE TOPIC OF GUN CONTROL…
THE NEW AMENDMENT WOULD THEN HAVE BE RATIFIED BY ¾ STATES FOR IT TO BE ADDED TO THE CONSTITUTION.
“So the odds that this process would be used actually to change the Constitution is pretty small. It’s not impossible, but it’s pretty small.”
SO WHY IS GOVERNOR NEWSOM PROPOSING A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT WHEN THE ODDS ARE STACKED AGAINST HIM?
“I think another thing to keep in mind is political actors on both the left and the right that are proposing constitutional conventions, even if realistically they’re not going to get a convention to change the Constitution in the way they want. They are our they are drawing attention to their political cause. So the act of saying we’re going to call for a convention can be politically advantageous, even if they realize it’s unlikely that the convention would ever happen.”