Representative Jared Golden of Maine, a centrist Democrat, called for a ban on assault weapons Thursday afternoon, reversing a longstanding position after 18 people were killed in a mass shooting in Lewiston.
It was both a remarkable turnaround on a polarizing issue for a politician holding one of the most competitive seats in the House and a familiar response for someone deeply shaken by a mass shooting close to home.
Mr. Golden, a Marine veteran, has repeatedly broken with his party to oppose legislation that would have banned assault weapons, a policy Democrats have repeatedly tried and failed to revive in the nearly two decades since it expired. Last July, he was one of only five Democrats to oppose the measure, which failed to secure enough Republican votes in the Senate.
That attitude, Mr. Golden said Thursday, partly reflects “a false belief that our community is above this and that we can have full control, among many other miscalculations.”
“Now the time has come for me to take responsibility for this failure,” said Mr. Golden. He asked for “forgiveness and support” from the people of Lewiston and loved ones of victims and survivors, while promising to work to revive the ban.
Standing with him at the press conference, Sen. Susan Collins, a centrist Republican, refused to support an assault weapons ban. The senator, who helped negotiate a compromise measure that broke a decades-long stalemate on any legislation aimed at changing the nation’s gun laws last year, instead said lawmakers should consider banning “very high-capacity magazines.”
“There is always more that can be done,” she said.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, one of the most liberal representatives in the House, he called the comments of Mr. Golden “powerful, brave and driven” on social media.
Still, a divided Congress is almost guaranteed not to move forward with any gun legislation given deep-seated conservative opposition to any measure that could be seen as a violation of the Second Amendment.
The 2022 compromise bill — which expanded the background check process, set aside millions in federal mental health funding and implemented so-called red flag laws, among other changes — fell short of the sweeping changes Democrats demanded. But only 29 Republicans — 15 in the Senate and 14 in the House, many of whom are retired or defeated — voted for the bill.