The mass taking pictures in Lewiston, Maine, coupled with a conservative Democratic congressman’s reversal on an assault weapons ban, has turned the highlight on the state’s two senators, Susan Collins, a reasonable Republican, and Angus King, a Democrat-leaning impartial, each of whom are skeptical about banning military-style rifles.
Consultant Jared Golden, among the many most conservative Democrats within the Home, rushed again to his Lewiston district on Thursday, as a gunman who killed 18 folks in his hometown remained at massive. He then surprised constituents in his historically pro-gun district by declaring that it was time for him “to take responsibility” for his “failure” to again a ban on assault weapons, “just like the one utilized by the sick perpetrator of this mass killing.”
Mr. Golden’s reversal is prone to put strain on Maine’s senators, each of whom boast of occupying the political middle and have used that place to forge important bipartisan compromises up to now, together with gun security laws handed final 12 months after the homicide of youngsters in Uvalde, Texas. Ms. Collins, particularly, has taken warmth from Democrats who say her professions of moderation have faltered at essential instances.
Mr. King, who’s standing for re-election in 2024, joined Republicans — together with Ms. Collins — on Wednesday to again an amendment to a spending bill that may prohibit the Division of Veterans Affairs from routinely sending veterans’ private data to the federal firearms background test system if they’re deemed mentally unfit to handle their advantages.
In an interview on Friday, Mr. King mentioned Mr. Golden’s reversal on assault weapons “took a number of braveness.” He added, nonetheless, that he additionally remained against the current Democratic proposal that would ban 205 specific models of rifles, and any weapon with “a number of navy traits together with a pistol grip, a ahead grip, a barrel shroud, a threaded barrel or a folding or telescoping inventory.”
As a substitute, Mr. King mentioned, he and colleagues would introduce laws — probably subsequent week — targeted on what a gun does, not the way it appears. Most necessary, the laws would mandate that semiautomatic rifles must have a hard and fast, everlasting journal that matches not more than 10 bullets. That means, a shooter couldn’t load a high-capacity journal with dozens of bullets, or carry a number of further magazines to shortly reload.
His laws would additionally completely ban “bump shares” that make semiautomatic weapons function like machine weapons. He mentioned he was wanting into bullet design to make rifles much less deadly.
“An assault weapons ban is basically primarily based on cosmetics, what the gun appears like,” he mentioned. “I’m targeted on what it does.”
Ms. Collins has mentioned she too helps a ban on bump shares and high-capacity magazines. She is the final Republican within the Senate who voted in 2013 for near-universal background checks on a invoice that fell narrowly to a filibuster. However her spokeswoman, Annie Clark, mentioned that whereas Ms. Collins continues to again expanded background checks, she stays against the assault weapons ban awaiting motion within the Senate.
The carnage in Lewiston got here as a shock to Maine, which the F.B.I., in a statistical replace on crime Monday, referred to as the most secure state within the nation. It additionally has one of many largest percentages of gun possession.
“Our state has an extended historical past of accountable gun possession,” Mr. King mentioned.
With its underpopulated rural reaches and legions of hunters and fishermen, Maine has lengthy been a bastion of gun rights. Its Legislature and governorship are managed by Democrats, however the state has never moved to ban types of firearms.
Nevertheless it does have what is named a “yellow flag” legislation, which permits legislation enforcement to detain folks they consider to be mentally unwell and a risk to themselves or others. Not like stricter “purple flag” legal guidelines, Maine requires the police first get a medical practitioner to judge the individual earlier than legislation enforcement can ask a choose to permit the seizure of firearms.
On Thursday, Ms. Collins said the hospitalization of the suspect in Lewiston ought to have triggered Maine’s yellow flag legislation, however she couldn’t say why it didn’t.
With Republicans answerable for the Home and Democrats holding a one-seat majority within the Senate, speak of an assault weapons ban is educational for now. Within the wake of the Maine taking pictures, the brand new Home speaker, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, informed Fox Information’ Sean Hannity, “The issue is the human coronary heart, not weapons.”
If something, political energy flows in opposition to gun management, as evidenced in Wednesday’s vote to restrict the authority of the secretary of veterans affairs to refer veterans’ psychological well being points to the background test system.
The modification, sponsored by Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, handed with 53 votes, together with these of Mr. King and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, a former Democrat who’s now an impartial, in addition to the Democrats Jon Tester of Montana, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Jacky Rosen of Nevada, all of whom face re-election subsequent 12 months.
“The legislation now places veterans in a distinct class than anybody else with no due course of,” Mr. King mentioned.