Democratic congressional candidate Jared Golden declined Tuesday to endorse efforts to pressure the Kittery Trading Post to stop selling assault-style rifles.

Calling the store “an iconic Maine business,” Golden said retailers in the state “should be able to sell firearms to those who can legally possess them.”

The Lewiston state representative’s comments came in reaction to a challenge from the state Republican Party to take a stand after several Democrats in southern Maine urged the store to pull the guns from its shelves.

“Does Jared Golden stand by his oath to the Maine and United States constitutions, or does he stand with members of his own party in attacking Mainers’ gun rights?” asked Jason Savage, the state Republican Party’s executive director.

In his response, Golden said, “I don’t spend a lot of time paying attention to what the Maine GOP says.”

He also pointed out that “unlike Bruce Poliquin,” the two-term Republican Golden hopes to unseat in the 2nd District, “I carried firearms in defense of this nation and our Constitution as a U.S. Marine.”

Democrats have said one of Golden’s strengths as a candidate is that gun owners will not be as inclined to doubt his support given his experience in the Marine Corps, which included combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Three Maine legislators – Democrats Deane Rykerson, Lydia Blume and Patty Hymanson – joined colleagues from New Hampshire and members of the community this week to plead with the Kittery store to follow the lead of Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods in ending the sale of the controversial weapons.

In a joint letter to the store published by the Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald, the three legislators and others called themselves regular customers who appreciate its quality and friendly employees.

They said it has always been a good business that values its customers and community, so “we naturally assumed” it would “take meaningful action” to requests that it stop selling assault-style weapons and would restrict sales to those 21 or older.

Instead, the lawmakers said, the store proved unresponsive. It has yet to answer the letter.

Some of those pressing the store for a policy change mentioned a possible boycott until it agrees.

Savage said the lawmakers’ demands are vague concerning what manufacturers and gun models they are upset about.

Golden and Poliquin are two of four candidates in the Nov. 6 election competing to represent the 2nd District in Congress. Also in the running: independents Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar.

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