Sen. Susan Collins has yet to take a position on a new proposal from Sen. Angus King and Democrats limiting firearms capacity, but Maine’s Republican senator could be a key to securing broader support in the wake of the state’s deadliest mass shooting.

The proposal, called the Gas-Operated Semiautomatic Firearm Exclusion (GOSAFE) Act, was introduced Thursday by King, an independent, and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico. It is co-sponsored by Sens. Mark Kelly, D-Arizona, and Michael Bennet, D-Colorado.

Collins was not available for an interview Thursday to discuss King’s proposal, her spokesperson said.

“Senator Collins recognizes that because of the complexity of this issue, Senator King has worked with Senator Heinrich for years to draft this legislation,” Annie Clark said in a statement. “She intends to carefully and thoroughly review it.”

Clark said Collins’ office first learned of the general approach to the proposal in the first week of November, when Heinrich’s staff shared an unfinished draft.

The bill comes in the wake of the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston – the deadliest in the U.S. this year – and as Maine lawmakers at both the state and federal levels are under pressure to respond.


“If she takes a lead on this, it very well could be a signal to the rest of the caucus that it’s time for some moderate changes,” Dan Shea, a professor of government at Colby College, said of Collins. “I think she’s in the spotlight. Given who she is as a moderate, that she comes from the second most rural state in the nation and given what happened in Lewiston, her position will be very, very important.”


Collins has worked previously on gun legislation with Heinrich, including on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was signed into law in 2022, and the BUMP Act, which was reintroduced this June and also recently co-sponsored by King.

Collins is the lead Republican sponsor on the BUMP Act, which would ban bump stocks that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire much like a machine gun.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act expanded background checks for gun purchasers under age 21 and provided funding for crisis intervention programs like Maine’s yellow flag law, mental health services and school safety programs.

It also included provisions to crack down on straw purchasing and firearms trafficking, Collins said in a statement issued Thursday.


She said she also supports expanded background checks and increasing from 18 to 21 the minimum age for purchasing assault-style firearms like AR-15s.

“It is important that we have laws that are designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others while protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans,” she said.

At a news conference shortly after the Lewiston shootings, Collins was asked if she would support an assault weapons ban. “I think it is more important that we ban very high-capacity magazines,” she said.

The senator supported a 1994 ban on assault weapons and voted to renew it in 2004, though the measure was defeated. She has said that when the ban was reintroduced in 2013, the number of banned weapons increased from 19 to 157, which she believed was more about cosmetic features than functionality.

Also in 2013, Collins voted against an amendment to limit firearm magazine capacity. That proposal was rejected by all Senate Republicans and 10 Democrats, and Clark said Thursday that one of the primary issues was concern that it also could have prohibited the sale of most handguns that are commonly used for self-defense.



Shea described King’s proposal as modest, but said it could still prove controversial among gun rights advocates who tend to view any restrictions on certain weapons as a “slippery slope” that could lead to extreme prohibitions.

“The line in the sand for the gun lobby has been sort of an absolutist position on gun restrictions,” Shea said. “It’s one thing to limit the mentally ill or someone caught in a domestic dispute from buying or using guns, but the line in the sand has always been hands-off restrictions on particular guns.”

The Republican Party contains a strong constituency of people opposed to such changes around gun laws, which poses a challenge for Collins, said Robert Spitzer, a professor emeritus of political science at the State University of New York Cortland and the author of six books on gun policy.

“It certainly will be more difficult for her to embrace this bill than for her colleague Sen. King, but it’s not beyond imagining that she might decide to support it at some point,” he said.

In the Senate, Spitzer said that Collins, long regarded as a moderate Republican, could be key to broader support. “She is a senator the bill’s sponsors would logically turn to as someone more likely, just because of past political positions, to lend support to it than hard-right conservative senators from other states,” he said.

In a state like Maine that is largely rural and has a long history of supporting gun ownership and hunting, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have at times been hesitant to embrace stronger gun control laws.

But the Lewiston shooting could change that. The day after the tragedy, Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District, made a dramatic departure from his previous position on gun control, saying it was time for him to change course and support an assault weapons ban.

“As Jared Golden said, we all thought Maine was sort of immune,” Shea said. “That sort of thing doesn’t happen in Maine. But now it does. So how will we respond?”

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