Gavin Newsom’s anti-Second Amendment rhetoric is career suicide for a wannabe president
“California has the strictest gun laws in the U.S.”
That’s what CBS News anchor Norah O’Donnell reported as she walked with Gov. Gavin Newsom through Monterey Park, the site of a horrific recent shooting during Lunar New Year celebrations.
O’Donnell and Newsom were not walking alone. In addition to the camera crew, they were accompanied on their walk-and-talk by several hyper-alert security men, each of whom looked like the love child of a Secret Service agent and an Abrams tank.
Surrounded by these armed bodyguards, Newsom complained to O’Donnell about the Second Amendment, calling it “a suicide pact.”
Later the governor took to Twitter to call the National Rifle Association a “trash organization” and declare that he looks forward to the day the NRA is “obsolete.”
It was yet another French Laundry moment for the elitist California governor, who lives behind guarded gates and tells crime-weary state residents that their right to own a firearm must be limited a little more every year because criminals are still shooting people.
Last May, as the governor campaigned for re-election, he claimed to have “sub-zero interest” in running for president in 2024. Perhaps it’s true. Calling the Second Amendment “a suicide pact” certainly seems like a strange start to a national campaign.
During the 2000 presidential race, Vice President Al Gore took a strong stand in favor of gun control laws and went on to lose his home state of Tennessee, Bill Clinton’s home state of Arkansas and the election.
A recent study by the Rand Corporation may explain why that happened. The researchers estimated that in 2021, 51.6% of adults in Tennessee and 57.2% in Arkansas had guns in their home.
In California, it was just 28.3%.
The Rand study would seem to forecast trouble in the early primary states for a candidate with the California governor’s disdain for the right to keep and bear arms. In Iowa, 43.6% of adults live in a home with one or more guns. In New Hampshire, 41.1%. In South Carolina, 49.4%. In Nevada, 47.3%. In Georgia, 49.2%.
In Oklahoma, where Newsom’s campaign for California governor bought billboard advertising for some reason, 54.7% of adults have guns in their homes.
Voters in some of the key swing states may not enjoy Newsom’s hostility to the Second Amendment. At least 40% of adults in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania have guns in their homes, and in Wisconsin it’s more than 45%.
Still, Newsom stated on CBS News, for the whole country to hear, that he thinks the Second Amendment is a “suicide pact.”
Actually, the Second Amendment is the law, part of the U.S. Constitution. It’s one of the specific conditions under which the consent of the governed was granted.
Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark Second Amendment ruling in a case known as New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. The justices threw out the subjective interest-balancing tests that lower courts had used to determine which state gun laws were allowable. The new test for constitutionality is tied to the historical record of firearms regulation. A law that limits the right to keep and bear arms must be consistent with the understanding that Americans had at the time they adopted the Second Amendment. Otherwise, it’s out.
In the Bruen case, the court rejected New York’s requirement for “proper cause” to obtain a license to carry a concealed firearm, ruling that it violated the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing ordinary citizens with an ordinary need for self-defense from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
The post-Civil-War Fourteenth Amendment comes into this because the Bill of Rights originally applied only to the federal government and did not limit the powers of the states at all. But early in the 20th century, the Supreme Court began to interpret the Constitution differently. The (frequently divided) Supreme Court ruled in one landmark case after another that parts of the Bill of Rights applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, which bars the states from depriving any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law.
This “incorporation” of the Bill of Rights into the Fourteenth Amendment has continued for nearly a century. It didn’t reach the Second Amendment until 2010, in the case of McDonald v. City of Chicago. If you’d like to know more about the history of the incorporation doctrine, it’s summarized in the court’s opinion in the McDonald decision, which established that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms applies equally in every state.
This is especially important for Californians, because California is one of only a handful of states that does not have a Second Amendment equivalent in its state constitution. Now, under the McDonald and Bruen decisions, California’s government is clearly constrained from enacting gun regulations that infringe Second Amendment rights.
Of course, this is not stopping them.
Last week, the governor joined Attorney General Rob Bonta and state Sen. Anthony Portantino for a splashy announcement of a proposed state law, Senate Bill 2, that would again put limits on permits to carry a concealed weapon after the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Bruen case struck them down.
Newsom said he has no doubt that he will sign SB 2 into law. But the executive director of Gun Owners of California, Sam Paredes, said he has no doubt that his organization “will challenge every aspect of this statute in court” and “will be successful in defeating it all.” The high-profile fight could take a couple of years.
The governor seems anxious to be seen as a warrior against the Second Amendment, someone who, if he was elected president, would appoint judges who will interpret the right to keep and bear arms right out of the Constitution.
Sounds like a career suicide pact.
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