Sen. Angus King is working on new federal legislation that he says would ban the most dangerous and lethal aspects of military-style assault rifles used in mass shootings, including the deadly attacks in Lewiston last week.

King said Monday that he continues to oppose a bill pending in the Senate to ban about 200 specific assault-style weapons and guns with similar characteristics. President Biden and gun safety advocates across the country have urged Congress to pass an assault weapons ban in the wake of the nation’s latest mass shooting.

U.S. Sen. Angus King Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

King said his bill will address the specific technologies that make such weapons especially deadly, a focus he has long advocated for as an alternative to the ban. He said it was too soon to discuss what would be in his bill, but that it would be similar to his past approach of focusing on the functionality of weapons over their appearance.

“I want to do something that’s really going to work,” King said, adding that he has been in discussions all weekend and through Monday. “That’s what we’re working on. My goal is saving lives.”

King’s staff removed a longstanding position statement on gun control from his website on Friday. A spokesperson said it was taken down so it could be updated to reflect King’s current legislative efforts.

King is one of three members of Maine’s congressional delegation who have opposed the assault weapons ban. Only Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, has been a consistent supporter.


However, Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat and former U.S. Marine, announced the day after the shootings in his hometown of Lewiston that he had reversed his own position and now supports an assault weapons ban.

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

The other member of Maine’s congressional delegation, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Monday that she continues to oppose the ban because it is too broad. But she also supports restrictions on certain equipment.

The assault weapons ban sponsored by Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; and the late Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., would ban the sale, manufacturing, transfer and importation of 205 military-style assault weapons by name. It also would ban firearms with similar characteristics, pistol grip, a forward grip, a barrel shroud, a threaded barrel or a folding/telescopic stock. Existing assault-style weapons would be largely grandfathered.

It also would ban magazines or feeding devices holding more than 10 rounds, require background checks on any future sale, trade or gifting of an assault weapon; require grandfathered weapons to be securely stored; prohibit any transfer of high-capacity ammunition magazines; and ban bump-stocks and other rapid fire devices.

King has argued that the bill focuses too much on what a weapon looks like, rather than how it functions. Focusing on looks would only allow manufacturers to change some design elements to get around the law, he said.


He told the Press Herald Editorial Board in a lengthy interview Friday that more specific measures are needed to curb gun violence, including universal background checks and banning high-capacity ammunition magazines and bump stocks, which can make a semiautomatic fire rounds like an automatic.

“We’re focused on the functionality of the weapon,” he said. “In other words, what makes it more dangerous.”

Collins said that she continues to oppose a broad ban on assault weapons and that she shares King’s concern that they apply more to how a firearm looks, than the way it functions.

Collins said she is not currently working with King on his bill, but is open to new ideas. She said she will continue to support other gun safety measures, including banning bump stocks and high-capacity magazines.


Even as they faced pressure in recent days to support more aggressive gun control measures, King and Collins also have been criticized for voting last week in support of a measure to protect the gun access rights of military veterans who are deemed incompetent to manage their own financial affairs.


Last Wednesday – the same day as the deadly shootings in Lewiston – King and Collins supported an amendment proposed by Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., that would allow veterans who need help managing their benefits from the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs to continue to purchase weapons unless a court orders a restriction. Right now, every veteran who requires such help from the VA because of injury, disease, age or other reasons is reported to the Department of Justice and the information can make them ineligible to purchase firearms. Veterans can appeal these firearms prohibitions, according to the VA.

Kennedy’s bill, which passed the Senate 53-45, would require a court order deeming the veteran a danger to themselves or others before a weapons restriction could be implemented.

Supporters of the current system argue that it helps prevent suicides and gun violence by restricting gun access when someone is mentally incompetent. But Kennedy and others say it deprives veterans of due process.

In an interview Monday, Collins said that her vote last week would have not had any impact on Robert Card’s access to guns before he killed 18 people in Lewiston, because he was an active U.S. Army reservist who was not receiving VA benefits and did not have a fiduciary appointed to help him manage his benefits.

“In his case, it would have made no difference and I think that’s an important point,” Collins said.

Collins said her vote was intended to ensure that people are treated equally. For example, she said, someone who has a fiduciary to manage Social Security benefits is not prohibited from purchasing firearms.

“Yet for veterans, we apply a completely different standard that equates inability to handle financial affairs somehow with mental illness and being a threat to themselves and others and that just doesn’t make any sense to me,” Collins said.

King agreed, saying the VA may still ask a court to restrict future firearm purchases if it thinks the individual is dangerous. But, without due process, he worried veterans could be discouraged from seeking help managing their finances or seeking the medical help they need.

“That’s the last thing we want,” King said.

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