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Jared Golden calls for a ban of assault rifles, reversing position

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, speaks at a news conference on Oct. 26, 2023 following deadly mass shootings in Lewiston, Maine on Oct. 25, 2023.
Robbie Feinberg
Maine Public
U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, speaks at a news conference on Oct. 26, 2023 following deadly mass shootings in Lewiston, Maine on Oct. 25, 2023.

In the wake of the Lewiston mass shootings, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine's 2nd District has apologized for his past opposition to the banning of certain assault weapons, and is now calling on Congress to take action.

Golden made the announcement Thursday night at a Lewiston press conference with Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who maintained her stance on assault weapons, but called for other restrictions.

Golden sounded contrite, and said that in opposing past efforts to ban certain assault weapons, he had a "false confidence" that his community was above deadly shootings.

"The time has now come for me to take responsibility for this failure, which is why I now call on the United States Congress to ban assault rifles, like the one used by the sick perpetrator of this mass killing in my hometown of Lewiston," Golden said.

Last year, Golden was one of just a few Democrats in the House to oppose gun control measures, such as a ban on certain semi-automatic weapons and limits on high-capacity magazines. But Golden said that he now plans to work with colleagues to get a ban passed.

"To the people of Lewiston, my constituents throughout the 2nd District, to the families who lost loved ones, and to those who have been harmed, I asked for forgiveness and support as I seek to put an end to these terrible shootings. In the days to come, I will give everything I have to support this community's recovery," Golden said.

When asked for her thoughts on a potential ban, Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins instead said that it's more important to ban high-capacity magazines.

Collins noted that she supported a ban on some assault weapons in the 1990s, but did not get behind a subsequent effort to expand the ban.

"And it was based not on lethality, but more on, how they looked, on cosmetic features," Collins said. "And I did not think that that was appropriate. We do have a 2nd Amendment in our country. And Maine, I would point out, has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the country, and has a long heritage of responsible gun ownership."

Collins noted other measures she'd prefer Congress to pass, including a ban on "bump stocks" and an increase in the minimum age to purchase a high-capacity rifle.

Collins also said she was a co-author of last year's Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which she said increased funding to states who have so-called "red flag" and "yellow flag" laws.

Maine's "yellow flag" law, which allows law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily restrict a person's access to guns, has recently come under scrutiny from gun control groups, who say its requirements are too onerous.

Collins said that, based on some facts that have been reported about the mental health of suspect Robert Card, it appears Maine's law should have been applied.

"It certainly seems that, on the basis of the facts that we have, that the yellow flag law should have been triggered," Collins said. "If, in fact, the suspect was hospitalized for two weeks for mental illness, that should have triggered the yellow flag law. And he should have been separated from his weapons. I'm sure, after the fact, that's going to be looked at very closely. Obviously, that's a state issue. And I do not have knowledge of what happened in that instance."

Golden's stated goal of passing a federal assault weapons ban has an unclear path forward, as it would have to pass through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

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