After shooting, Maine senators in spotlight over guns | ET REALITY


The mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, along with a conservative Democratic congressman’s reversal of an assault weapons ban, has focused attention on the state’s two senators, Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, and Angus King, an independent from Democratic leanings, both of whom are skeptical of the ban on military-style rifles.

Rep. Jared Golden, one of the House’s most conservative Democrats, rushed back to his Lewiston district on Thursday, while the gunman who killed 18 people in his hometown remained at large. He then surprised voters in his traditionally pro-gun district by declaring that it was time to “take responsibility” for his “failure” to support a ban on assault weapons, “like the one used by the sick perpetrator of this mass killing.”

Golden’s reversal is likely to put pressure on Maine’s senators, who boast of occupying the political center and have used that position to forge important bipartisan compromises in the past, including gun safety legislation passed last year after the murder of children in Uvalde. , Texas. Collins, in particular, has drawn criticism from Democrats, who say his statements of moderation have faltered at crucial moments.

King, who is up for re-election in 2024, joined Republicans, including Collins, on Wednesday to endorse an amendment to a spending bill that would prohibit the Department of Veterans Affairs from automatically sending veterans’ personal information to the federal firearms background check system if they are deemed mentally unfit to administer their benefits.

In an interview Friday, King said Golden’s change of course on assault weapons “took a lot of courage.” He added, however, that he also continued to oppose the Current Democratic proposal that would ban 205 specific models. of rifles and any weapon with “one or more military features, including a pistol grip, a foregrip, a barrel shroud, a threaded barrel, or a folding or telescoping stock.”

Instead, King said, he and his colleagues would introduce legislation (possibly next week) focused on what a gun does, not what it looks like. Most importantly, the legislation would require semi-automatic rifles to have a fixed, permanent magazine with a capacity of no more than 10 rounds. That way, a shooter wouldn’t be able to load a high-capacity magazine with dozens of rounds, or carry several extra magazines for quick reloads.

His legislation would also permanently ban “bump stocks” that make semi-automatic weapons function like machine guns. He said he was researching bullet design to make rifles less lethal.

“The ban on assault weapons is essentially based on the appearance of the weapon,” he said. “I’m focused on what he’s doing.”

Collins has said she also supports banning high-capacity magazines and high-capacity magazines. She is the last Republican in the Senate who voted in 2013 for near-universal background checks in a bill that narrowly missed becoming a filibuster. But her spokeswoman, Annie Clark, said that while Collins continues to support expanding background checks, she remains opposed to an assault weapons ban pending action in the Senate.

The massacre in Lewiston was a shock to Maine, which the FBI, in a crime statistics update Monday, called the safest state in the country. It also has one of the highest percentages of gun ownership.

“Our state has a long history of responsible gun ownership,” King said.

With its unpopulated rural areas and legions of hunters and fishermen, Maine has long been a bastion of the right to bear arms. Its Legislature and governorship are controlled by Democrats, but the state has never taken steps to ban types of firearms.

But it does have what is known as a “yellow flag” law, which allows law enforcement to detain people they believe are mentally ill and a threat to themselves or others. Unlike stricter “red flag” laws, Maine requires police to first get the person evaluated by a doctor before authorities can ask a judge to allow firearms to be seized.

Thursday, Ms. Collins said the hospitalization of the suspect in Lewiston should have triggered Maine’s yellow flag law, but he couldn’t say why it didn’t.

With Republicans controlling the House and Democrats holding a one-seat majority in the Senate, talk of an assault weapons ban is academic for now. In the wake of the Maine shooting, new House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana told Fox News’ Sean Hannity, “The problem is the human heart, not guns.”

If anything, political power flows against gun control, as evidenced by Wednesday’s vote to limit the authority of the secretary of veterans affairs to refer veterans’ mental health problems to the background check system.

The amendment, sponsored by Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, passed with 53 votes, including those of Mr. King and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, a former Democrat who is now an independent, as well as Democrats Jon Tester of Montana . Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Jacky Rosen of Nevada, all of whom face re-election next year.

“The law now places veterans in a different category than anyone else without due process,” King said.

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