California recently made headlines by becoming the first state to call for a constitutional convention to amend the U.S. Constitution regarding gun ownership. This proposal, championed by California Governor Gavin Newsom, seeks to raise the minimum age for gun ownership to 21, impose background checks on private transfers of firearms, implement waiting periods for gun purchases, and enact an assault weapon ban. While Democrats may rally behind these measures, the broader picture reveals significant challenges for their gun control agenda.
One key obstacle is the requirement that any constitutional amendment must be ratified by at least 38 states, a majority. Currently, Democrats control both the governorship and state legislature in only 17 states, falling well short of the necessary number. Furthermore, they lack the votes in Congress to push through such an amendment. This fact underscores the challenge of passing their gun control wish list, which essentially requires changing the Constitution.
Despite claims that California boasts the strictest gun control laws in the country, it has not proven to be a model of success. California’s per capita rate of mass public shootings has consistently exceeded the national average, with a particularly stark contrast to Texas, a state with more permissive gun laws. This disparity remains evident, even when gun control groups grade Texas with an “F.”
The argument for raising the gun ownership age rests on the premise that individuals aged 18 to 20 commit firearm-related crimes at higher rates. However, data reveal that young people who can pass background checks tend to be as law-abiding as older individuals. A ban on gun ownership for this age group affects only those who could legally purchase firearms.
The focus on federal background checks for private transfers is another contentious point in the gun control debate. Despite claims that such measures would prevent mass public shootings, there is little evidence to support this assertion. These checks have largely produced “initial denials,” which are not necessarily accurate indicators of a person’s criminal history. The system’s reliance on phonetically similar names and neglect of middle names introduces significant inaccuracies. Moreover, these inaccuracies disproportionately affect black and Hispanic males.
Public support for gun control measures, particularly universal background checks, may appear strong on the surface. However, a more nuanced examination reveals varying levels of support when respondents understand the implications fully. For instance, when individuals are informed that such checks could criminalize lending a firearm for self-defense or recreational purposes, support weakens significantly.
The push for waiting periods, often portrayed as providing a “cooling-off period,” also raises concerns. These periods may delay individuals in need of immediate protection, potentially exposing them to greater risks. Furthermore, the effectiveness of assault weapon bans remains questionable, as they have had little impact on reducing crime.
While Democrats’ constitutional amendment may not advance, it highlights their stance on the right to self-defense and underscores the challenges they face in amending the Constitution. Ultimately, the debate surrounding gun control hinges on striking a balance between public safety and the preservation of individual rights.