Jared Golden reverses himself to back assault weapons ban after Lewiston shooting

Gun Rights

LEWISTON, Maine — A day after deadly mass shootings in his home city, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District said Thursday he supported the kind of assault weapons ban that he has opposed so far during his time in Congress.

It was an abrupt reversal from the Democrat from a rural district won twice by former President Donald Trump. Golden’s opposition to gun control led the National Rifle Association to take no side in his 2022 election for a third term against former Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin.

On Wednesday, 18 people were killed and another 13 were injured in shootings at a bar and bowling alley in Lewiston, the state’s second-largest city. It was the worst shooting event in Maine history and one of the worst in the U.S. in the last few years. The suspect, Robert R. Card II of Bowdoin, is at large with a massive manhunt continuing into late Thursday.

The tragic events moved Golden to switch his position in a news conference at City Hall on Thursday in which he admitted to having “a false confidence that our community was above this.” He said he was wrong to oppose Democratic efforts to ban so-called assault weapons and limit magazine sizes in the past, a move that caused progressives to rally to his defense.

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“For the good of my community, I will work with any colleague to get this done in the time that I have left in Congress,” Golden said.

Such a bill would be dead on arrival in the current Congress, since Republicans control the House. Last year, the Maine congressman was one of five Democrats to oppose a bill advanced after mass shootings in Texas and New York that would have raised the age limit for purchasing a semi-automatic rifle and prohibit the sale of magazines holding more than 15 rounds. After that, he opposed a ban on certain semi-automatic weapons.

Golden may face a difficult reelection race in a conservative-leaning district in 2024. Three Republicans, freshman state Reps. Austin Theriault of Fort Kent and Michael Soboleski of Phillips, plus former Maine Senate candidate Robert Cross of Dedham, are running in a primary for the right to face him.

In a statement, both Theriault and Soboleski accused Golden of trying to advance a political agenda after the shootings. Theriault called for the nation’s largest-ever investment in health care and access, while Soboleski said “now is not the time for politics.”

“There will be other lessons, and other policies, that we should consider in the wake of this crime, but infringing on regular citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights is not the answer,” Theriault said.

The Marine veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars is a centrist who tweaked liberals in recent months on many issues, including his vehement opposition to President Joe Biden’s student debt cancellation plans. But more progressive members rallied to his defense, with Rep. Becca Balint of Vermont sending out a fundraising pitch on his behalf.

“He is making a choice that is the right thing to do for his district, and for this country,” she wrote.

Collins faced aggressive questions on Thursday from members of the foreign press for her record on gun issues. While the centrist Republican opposed a Democratic assault weapons ban in 2013, she also supported a failed compromise on background checks that year and led a bipartisan gun, mental health and school safety bill that passed last year.

Asked whether she would join Golden in backing an assault weapons ban, Collins said that she did not think it would be the most effective solution to gun violence. She instead said Congress should ban “very high capacity magazines.”

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