Maine Rep. Jared Golden – one of the rare House Democrats to oppose many gun safety measures championed by his party – came out in support of an assault weapons ban on Thursday, the day after shootings in his hometown of Lewiston left at least 18 dead and 13 injured.
“I have opposed efforts to ban deadly weapons of war,” Golden said at news conference in Lewiston. “The time has now come for me to take responsibility for this failure, which is why I now call on the United States Congress to ban assault rifles.”
Golden’s announcement marks a notable shift for the three-term congressman, who represents Maine’s 2nd Congressional District – a largely rural seat that twice backed former President Donald Trump. First elected in 2018 when he flipped the GOP-held district under ranked-choice voting, the Marine veteran has broken with his party on a number of priorities, including gun measures.
While Golden backed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act last year — the first major federal gun safety legislation in decades — he has voted against other firearms bills pushed by Democrats over the years, notably an assault-style weapons ban that the House, then under Democratic control, passed in 2022. Golden was one of five Democrats to oppose that measure — and one of three who are still in the House.
In a 2022 statement defending his votes against gun measures, the congressman said, “We do not need to take some types of firearms away from all Americans, but instead we should work to keep all firearms out of the hands of felons and those who have demonstrated that they are at serious risk of committing harm to themselves or others.”
But on Thursday, with his community still in lockdown, the congressman struck an urgent tone about the need to restrict assault weapons. “For the good of my community, I will work with any colleague to get this done in the time I have left in Congress,” said Golden, who could be facing a competitive reelection next year.
“To the people of Lewiston, my constituents throughout the 2nd District, to the families who lost loved ones, and to those who have been harmed, I ask for forgiveness and support as I seek to put an end to these terrible shootings,” he said.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said later Thursday on CNN that Golden was “coming to the same reality” that assault weapons shouldn’t be “on the streets of America.”
“But I wish it didn’t take members of Congress to have to experience a mass shooting in their own congressional district to come to this reality,” Murphy told Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.” He added, “I’m glad Rep. Golden has made this decision, but why does it have to happen over and over and over again, to have these conversions?”
Golden’s new position doesn’t increase the likelihood of an assault weapons ban passing Congress, where Republicans control the House and Democrats lack a broad enough majority in the Senate.
Asked at the same news conference if she also supported banning assault weapons, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said that “it is more important that we ban very high-capacity magazines,” arguing that would be more effective.
“There is always more that can be done,” Collins said, touting her support of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and noting that she is open to exploring whether to increase the age to purchase some firearms from 18 to 21 years old.
Mary Kay Mallonee contributed to this report