Maine Representative Jared Golden, a Democrat, has changed his position on an assault weapons ban after a mass shooting occurred in his hometown of Lewiston. The 41-year-old Marine Corps veteran, who previously opposed a ban on semi-automatic weapons, now considers his previous stance a “failure.” Representing a predominantly rural district that twice voted for Donald Trump, Golden was elected in 2018, flipping the district to the Democrats. Despite breaking with his party on several gun control measures, he was one of only five Democratic representatives to oppose a planned ban on assault-style weapons that passed the House of Representatives in 2022 but did not become law.
At a news conference on Thursday, Golden expressed his change of heart, stating that the shooting in Lewiston compelled him to reconsider his position. He called on the United States Congress to ban assault rifles, similar to the one used in the mass killing in his hometown. Seeking forgiveness for his previous opposition to gun control, Golden pledged to collaborate with his colleagues to achieve this goal during his remaining time in Congress.
Maine’s moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins has advocated for more modest gun control measures, specifically restrictions on high-capacity magazines. US President Joe Biden urged Republican lawmakers, who currently control the House, to fulfill their duty in protecting the American people. However, even when Democrats held the majority in both chambers of Congress during the first two years of Biden’s presidency, they were unable to pass such legislation. Biden himself led efforts to restrict semi-automatic rifles in 1994 as a Senate committee chairman, but the ban expired after a decade, and its effectiveness has been debated since.
In 2019, Maine enacted a “yellow flag” law, allowing police officers to petition for the removal of firearms from individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others. This law requires a medical evaluation and the person’s placement into protective custody. It is narrower in scope than “red flag” laws, which permit family members, teachers, and others to take similar action. It remains unclear if any petition was filed regarding the suspect in Wednesday’s shooting, who authorities and family members say was suffering from acute mental health issues. According to the Portland Press Herald, the yellow flag law has been utilized 58 times over the past three years.
The right to bear firearms is protected by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.