U.S. Rep. Jared Golden stands between Lewiston City Councilor Stephanie Gelinas and Central Maine Healthcare president Steven Littleson during Thursday evening’s press conference at Lewiston City Hall. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Rep. Jared Golden of Maine returned home to Lewiston on Thursday as his city remained on lockdown and police searched for the man charged with murder in two shootings that left 18 dead and 13 wounded.

Jarred by the violence, the 2nd-District Democrat made a dramatic departure from his previous position on gun control, saying it was time for him to change course on an assault weapons ban.

“I have opposed efforts to ban deadly weapons of war, like the assault rifle used to carry out this crime,” Golden said. “The time has now come for me to take responsibility for this failure, which is why I now call on the U.S. Congress to ban assault rifles, like the one used by the sick perpetrator of this mass killing in my hometown of Lewiston, Maine.

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

Golden’s reversal comes as Maine is now the center of a long-running national battle over gun control.

President Biden, along with Democratic leaders and gun safety advocates nationwide, renewed calls for an assault weapons ban on Thursday in response to the Lewiston shootings.


Similar calls have gone unheeded after mass shootings over the past two decades, including Sandy Hook, Connecticut; Uvalde, Texas; Las Vegas; Parkland, Florida; and others. But Golden’s announcement is an example of why gun control advocates say they remain hopeful.

Fred Guttenberg, a national gun control activist whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, died in the Parkland shootings in 2018, told the Press Herald Thursday that the 2024 elections will be key. If Democrats take full control of Congress, and there’s enough lawmakers in favor of gun control measures, real progress could be made, he said.

“Until we are serious about undoing the damage of the past 20 to 25 years, more of these mass shootings are predictable and inevitable,” Guttenberg said. “But it doesn’t have to be.”

Guttenberg said there are encouraging signs. About 20 states have enacted some form of meaningful gun control – mostly Democratic-leaning states – but Florida, a red state, also has passed gun reforms.

Clockwise from top left: Sen. Angus King, Sen. Susan Collins, Rep. Jared Golden and Rep. Chellie Pingree File photos

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, said she hasn’t given up hope on passing significant reforms to gun laws – she supports bans on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks – even though such measures have had a difficult time getting through Congress.

“It’s always time,” Pingree said in an interview Thursday. Pingree said the political landscape can change quickly and passing laws that didn’t seem possible a decade ago can happen if there’s public support for change and political will.


An assault weapons ban was in effect from 1994-2004, but the law was allowed to sunset and Congress has never been able to muster the votes to pass a new ban.

“I’ve always believed there was no good reason to own a military-style assault weapon. That’s not what people take hunting,” Pingree said.

However, not all members of Maine’s delegation support an assault weapons ban.

Sen. Angus King, an independent, said he is in favor of banning high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, which can make semiautomatic weapons operate more like automatic weapons. But he’s not in favor of an assault weapons ban because he said he doesn’t believe it would be effective. Gun manufacturers would find a way to bypass the weapons ban, he said.

But a simpler reform, such as mandating that a magazine can only carry 10 bullets – currently some carry 60 or more bullets – and banning bump stocks, would be more effective. King noted that under Maine’s deer hunting regulations, hunters can only load five bullets into their gun.

“I always try to be pragmatic,” King said. “I’m interested in what will work.”


Sen. Susan Collins speaks at Thursday evening’s press conference at Lewiston City Hall. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, told the Press Herald that “I did and do support the ban of bump stocks, which are designed to turn semiautomatic weapons into machine guns.”

Collins was a supporter of the 1994 law that banned 19 styles of assault weapons, and she said on Thursday she would still support that kind of assault weapons ban.

But she said a 2004 proposed expansion of that law – up to more than 150 weapons, went too far, was more “cosmetic” and didn’t address the “functionality” of the guns, so she voted “no.”

Collins touted a law that was passed in 2022, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which among its provisions gave states additional mental health funding, boosted crisis and suicide hotlines, and supported states that passed “red flag” or “yellow flag” laws, which are ways for law enforcement to remove guns from people who are having a mental health crisis.

Maine passed a “yellow flag” law, which allows for law enforcement to take away guns when people are having mental health problems, but requires a sign-off from a mental health professional. Collins said she would prefer to see the “yellow flag” model go nationwide, because people deserve due process.

She said during a news conference Thursday that she did not know why the state’s yellow flag law didn’t prevent the rampage in Lewiston. Police have said Card was having mental health issues, including being committed to a mental health facility for two weeks this summer.


Cam Shannon, board chair for the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, said so-called “red flag” laws work better than Maine’s version. Red flag laws allow police to take away weapons without getting medical assessments and recommendation.

“No one law is going to prevent everything,” Shannon said. “But a comprehensive group of laws working together can prevent a lot.”

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, second from right, and Sen. Susan Collins, center, at Thursday evening’s press conference at Lewiston City Hall. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Collins said she spoke with President Biden Wednesday evening as the tragedy in Lewiston was unfolding, and the president promised to use federal resources to help Maine as much as possible.

“President Biden expressed his deepest sympathy. He told me he wanted to support the people of Maine in every way,” Collins said.

“It is just so hard to believe such a heinous attack could occur in our state,” Collins said. “Like many Mainers, I did not sleep (Thursday) night.”

King said he also spoke with President Biden.


“It was vintage Biden,” King said. “The president took the initiative to call me. You could tell from his voice that it hit him hard.”

King said he his emotions were of shock and grief when hearing about the shootings.

“On Monday, the FBI said Maine is the safest state in America,” King said. “Two days later, we had this horrendous incident.”

Pingree said she felt “total grief and disbelief” when following news of the Lewiston shootings on Wednesday evening.

“You think, ‘This doesn’t happen in Maine,'” Pingree said. “We are so safe here. You never anticipate it would happen to us. But sadly, it was maybe only a matter of time.”

Golden was emotional when he spoke of the attacks.

“Humility is called for as accountability is sought by the victims of a tragedy such as this one out of fear of this dangerous world that we live in, in my determination to protect my own daughter, and wife in our home and in our community, because of a false confidence that our community was above this, and that we could be in full control, among many other misjudgments,'” he said.

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