Was it political expediency? Or did Rep. Jared Golden, awash in his hometown’s anguish, just have an epiphany?

I’m going with the latter.

“I have opposed efforts to ban deadly weapons of war, like the assault rifle used to carry out this crime,” Golden told the assembled media at Lewiston City Hall on Thursday, one day after a man from nearby Bowdoin used a semiautomatic rifle to kill 18 Mainers and wound 13 others. It is, by far, the worst mass murder in our state’s history.

The Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District continued: “The time has now come for me to take responsibility for this failure, which is why I now call on the U.S. Congress to ban assault rifles, like the one used by the sick perpetrator of this mass killing in my hometown of Lewiston, Maine.”

Strong word, “failure” – especially coming from a politician. Accurate, too.

What Golden has now experienced – what all of us have, for that matter – is that jarring collision between the abstract and the horrifyingly real. And he, along with all of Maine, will never be the same.


Before Wednesday’s attack, mass shootings were something that happened in other places, to other people, too far away for us to actually hear the wailing sirens and see a whole community shut down almost instantaneously. We knew the drill like everyone else: Gasp at the TV screen, go out and lower the flag (again), maybe say a silent prayer and thank God this kind of thing never happens in Maine.

Who were we kidding? Ourselves, obviously.

Golden is to be commended for his decisive change of heart, just as he must now grapple with his own conscience for not having had it sooner.

But his newfound commitment to pushing back on this nation’s gun mania raises a broader question: Is this what it takes to move recalcitrant members of Congress away from the gun industry lobbyists and toward some semblance of sanity? Do we need bloodshed and body bags in every pro-gun district in the country for these 2nd Amendment apologists to see for themselves the stark difference between a “well regulated Militia” and a well-armed psychopath?

That’s not hyperbole. With mass shootings in the United States now occurring at a rate of almost two per day, it’s only a matter of time before no congressman, no senator, no citizen can say, “This is a safe place. That kind of thing has never happened here.”

Here in Maine, Golden’s words had no sooner left his lips before two of his Republican challengers in next year’s election played politics by accusing Golden of playing politics. Their names aren’t worth mentioning here. But their tired old mantra – it’s not the weaponry that’s a problem, it’s the lack of mental health treatment – reflects an intellectual depth that is as deficient as it is dishonest.


The weaponry is the problem here. As we now await an inventory from investigators of exactly what Card was carrying in addition to his rapid-fire rifle, we know that those 18 innocent victims were not mowed down by whatever delusions he was having. They were executed, methodically and efficiently, by the hardware he was handling.

Reasonable minds can disagree on the best strategies to stop the carnage. From an outright ban on assault-style weapons to limiting magazine capacities and thus stanching the number of bullets a shooter can discharge without pausing to reload, options abound for at least slowing what is now a runaway train, an outright invitation to daily disaster.

Are the vast majority of gun owners in Maine responsible, safety-conscious, law-abiding citizens? Of course they are. But that’s no longer the point.

The point is that behind every law, every social policy, lies a risk-reward calculus. The reward for Maine’s relatively lax gun laws is that collectors, sportsmen and target-shooting enthusiasts get to enjoy their hobby. The risk is that some of those guns and accessories fall too easily into the wrong hands and, just like that, phone alerts start lighting up all over Maine.

It’s no longer a hypothetical, people. It happened. Last week.

Put simply, it’s time for Maine – all of Maine – to wake the hell up. It doesn’t have to be this way.


Look closely at those photos in today’s newspaper, read about those lives cut short, and try to go on with your day. And if you’re lucky, thank your stars that you’ve never had to witness a lifeless body lying in a pool of blood – an image that will haunt your head (and your heart) forever.

Even now, we have a long way to go. On Friday, seeking a short respite from the horror, I joined my best friend for a round of golf not terribly far from where Card abandoned his vehicle and, it later turned out, took his own life.

Nursing a beer in the lounge after we finished, we and everyone else watched Fox News report on divers searching the Androscoggin River. But it was the chatter around the bar that really caught my attention.

One smiling man, holding up both hands, was explaining to the young woman on the stool next to him how to properly fire a handgun.

Squeeze the trigger, don’t pull it,” he said, mimicking the motion. “Squeeze it!”

Down the bar, another man patted his side, motioned out toward the parking lot, and boasted to the bartender, “I’ve got a 9 mil!”

This is the stuff of fantasy: There’s a killer on the loose and, by gorry, I’m going to get him before he gets me! You want reality? Watch this week as the agonizing memorial services and burials bring Lewiston to its knees.

Jared Golden got it right. It’s time for us to admit failure and rethink this national gun fetish.

It’s time to get mad. And stay mad.

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