About one month after Maine’s deadliest mass shooting, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, is proposing a limit on the number of bullets a gun can hold as part of new legislation to regulate how firearms are manufactured and sold in the United States.

The bill being introduced Thursday, called the GOSAFE Act, is different than what’s commonly known as an assault weapons ban because it regulates how guns are made rather than banning specific models. Rifles and shotguns would be barred from having magazines that carry more than 10 rounds, while handguns could carry up to 15 rounds. Some high-capacity magazines used in mass shootings have carried 25 to 50 rounds or more. GOSAFE stands for Gas-Operated Semi-Automatic Firearms Exclusion.

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

In an interview this week with the Portland Press Herald, King said the GOSAFE Act is a more effective approach because gun manufacturers can get around bans on specific weapons by slightly altering guns and building new models. King said the approach taken by the GOSAFE Act took years of work collaborating with Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, the bill’s other primary sponsor, to close loopholes to ensure that gun manufacturers would have to comply.

King said it was a coincidence that he and Heinrich were finishing the details of the bill when the Lewiston mass shootings occurred on Oct. 25.

“Lewiston simply strengthened my resolve,” King said. “It redoubled my commitment to dealing with this issue.”

Gunman Robert Card killed 18 people and injured 13 more at two locations in Lewiston, and in at least one location used an AR-10 assault-style rifle. He was found in a trailer in Lisbon two days later, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.


King said if the proposed bill becomes law, the weapon used in the shootings would be illegal to purchase.

The tragedy – one of hundreds of mass shootings in the United States over the past 25 years – has spurred more support for gun reform, including by Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District. Golden, who lives in Lewiston, publicly declared that he had reversed his position and now supports an assault weapons ban. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, had been the only member of Maine’s congressional delegation to consistently support an assault weapons ban and other gun safety reforms.

Maine lawmakers also are preparing to debate new gun safety laws at the state level, perhaps including an assault weapons ban, when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

The legislation being unveiled in Congress on Thursday is the first major foray into gun reform legislation spearheaded by King.


Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is reviewing King’s bill, but has not yet taken a position. She has said she would support a ban on high-capacity magazines and argued, like King, that restrictions should focus more on the functionality of assault-style weapons than on individual models.


“Senator Collins recognizes the time and effort that went into developing this proposal from Senators Heinrich and King, and she will carefully consider it,” Annie Clark, a Collins spokeswoman, said in an email response to questions.

King has previously supported some gun control measures, but opposed the pending bill to ban more than 200 specific models of military-style assault weapons.

He said Maine has a long history of responsible gun ownership and hunting traditions that should be honored.

“Nothing in this bill affects the traditional gun culture we have in Maine,” King said, pointing out that state hunting laws mandate no more than five rounds in a hunting rifle, and hunters can carry one spare round.

President Biden walks toward a nearby helicopter with first lady Dr. Jill Biden after arriving in Maine at the Brunswick Executive Airport on Friday. The Bidens are followed by U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Heinrich, who took part in the Press Herald interview with King, said that the bill balances Second Amendment gun rights with finding a way to minimize mass shootings.”How do we draw the line between what is unusually dangerous and contributes to large-scale shootings, and differentiate that from the tools everyday Americans use for self-defense, hunting and shooting?” Heinrich said. He said the bill accomplishes that complex task.

King said that they worked on the bill for years – starting in 2019 and with major work on the granular details since 2021 – in order for the bill to hold up in court and make sure there weren’t any loopholes for gun manufacturers.



According to a summary of the bill provided by King’s office, magazines must be “permanently fixed, meaning the firearm cannot accept a detachable, high-capacity magazine that would increase the number of rounds that can be fired before reloading and make reloading easier.”

Bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic weapons to fire at a faster rate, also would be banned.

While guns that don’t meet the regulations could no longer be sold, resold or manufactured under the bill, those who already own such guns could keep them or pass them on to family members. There also would be a federal gun buyback program so that people could turn in guns that don’t meet the regulations, and get money back for doing so. The buyback is intended to “prevent stockpiling of these lethal firearms and large capacity magazines,” according to the bill’s summary.

Mark Collins, the federal policy director for Brady United Against Gun Violence, which advocates for gun safety regulations, said the group supports the GOSAFE Act, as well as the pending assault weapons ban.

He said King’s bill is an “elegant” solution to reform gun laws.
“This focuses on the functionality on the firearm itself,” Collins said. “It’s a different way of doing it (compared to an assault weapons ban), but it’s a very effective way of doing  it.”
Collins said the bill took a long time to write because “there are lots of different types of firearms, and different types of ways that they work.”


The proposal is certain to face strong resistance from gun rights advocates, however.

Dave Workman, spokesman for the Second Amendment Foundation, a Bellevue, Washington, group that advocates for gun rights, said proposals to limit magazines to 10 rounds are “feel good” bills that don’t accomplish anything. He said it doesn’t stop gun owners from reloading.

“The 10-round magazine limit really is an arbitrary number for which there has never been a reasonable explanation,” Workman said. “The idea that forcing somebody to have just a 10-round magazine because you think it will require him to reload is really nonsense.”

People hold candles and signal “I love you,” in American Sign Language at the end of a vigil Nov. 1 at Winthrop High School for victims of the Lewiston mass shooting. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal


Gun control bills are typically difficult to shepherd through Congress, with Republicans often unified in opposition. However, with numerous mass shootings in recent years – including in Lewiston; Las Vegas; Newtown, Connecticut; Parkland, Florida; and Uvalde, Texas, among other cities – polling shows strong public support for reforms, including restrictions on assault weapons.

“The only building where gun reform is remotely controversial is the U.S. Capitol,” Collins said.


He said the GOSAFE Act, because it’s not an outright ban on assault weapons, has a chance to be bipartisan and attract Republican support.

However, so far there are no Republican co-sponsors, although the bill is just now being introduced.

King and Heinrich said they are working on lobbying fellow senators, including Republicans, to support the bill.

Sen. Collins supported the initial assault weapons ban, which passed in 1994 before she was elected to her first term in 1996. That law was allowed to sunset in 2004 and she voted against another ban that was proposed in 2013, saying it was overly broad and focused on the cosmetics of guns rather than their functionality.

Brian Duff, a political science professor at the University of New England, said the bill faces a “huge uphill battle” but that it’s a credit to King for trying something new.

“It is great to have a new and practical and thoughtful proposal,” Duff said. “For Angus King, this can turn a general liability (being against an assault weapons ban) into a strength.”


Duff said “the prospects of passing this now are very slim, but one shift in the House in the next election and things could change.” King’s proposal being tailored to gun functionality rather than a ban on specific models could attract support from some moderate Republicans, such as Collins, although it’s difficult to say how much support it would garner, he said.

Republicans currently hold a slim majority in the House, while Democrats control the Senate. President Biden has voiced support for gun reforms, including an assault weapons ban.

Collins also is working on other measures to address gun violence, said Clark, her spokeswoman.

“Senator Collins believes that there is a crime and violence problem in this country and that Congress should join with the states and law enforcement in trying to address it. She will continue to focus on measures that could help save lives, including legislation that could help keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, and also people who are suffering from mental illness that could cause them to be a danger to themselves and others. She is currently drafting legislation that would direct the military to fully utilize state crisis intervention laws,” Clark said, also noting that Collins is the lead Republican sponsor on a bill that would ban bump stocks.

King believes that “politics will eventually catch up with public opinion” and meaningful gun reform will pass.

“You can work on something for years, and it doesn’t happen and doesn’t happen, and then suddenly the stars align and the bill passes,” King said.

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