In the devastating aftermath of last week’s mass shootings in Lewiston, this editorial board is calling on Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King to support a workable federal ban on assault rifles – however they wish to get there.

As a solemn attempt to weaken the sickening grip the threat of gun violence has on our families and our neighbors, as an acknowledgment of the consequences of decades of failure to take this action and as an act of faith in the future of our state, nothing less than an effective ban on the sale of military-style assault rifles can do.

No credible argument in favor of continuing to allow these guns onto store shelves and into our communities can be made or has ever been made.

And yet, as this newspaper reported in stark detail in May, three of four members of Maine’s congressional delegation – Sens. Collins and King and Rep. Jared Golden – withheld their support for a ban, despite a majority of voters now strongly supporting it in principle.

Three of four, with Rep. Chellie Pingree as the longstanding exception – until last Thursday night. Referring to “false confidence” in abstract ideas about local safety and control and “many other misjudgments,” Rep. Golden stood up at a lectern and told the public that he had reconsidered his position on the accessibility of “weapons of war.”

Among the memorable lines from the congressman’s speech, one stood out to us: “Humility is called for as accountability is sought.”


Humility is called for. In contemporary politics, any change of mind or approach is remarkable enough. In choosing to take responsibility for his failure, however, in explicitly asking for forgiveness and support from his constituents in the 2nd Congressional District, Golden went further than that. What we saw was a rare display of moral courage.

“Sometimes things happen that bring your worst nightmares to life,” Golden said of his own tipping point, the mass shootings in his hometown that left 18 people dead.

Our reporting back in May, which followed the April shootings in Bowdoin and Yarmouth, was characterized as much by the delegates’ reluctance to support an assault weapons ban as it was their reluctance to tell the public exactly why.

The positions of Sens. Collins and King on an assault weapons ban are different.

Collins has previously explained that past proposals have been too broad. King has repeatedly expressed concern that the proposed bans he has encountered so far would be too weak, too easy for manufacturers to find their way around. The senator has instead been focused on placing limits on functional elements like high-capacity magazines and bump stocks.

In the immediate, emotional aftermath of a tragedy like Lewiston’s, reservations about the content or form of any proposal to ban these weapons outright is particularly hard for us to accept.


Defenders of the right to access to automatic and semi-automatic rifles do the same thing when they wring hands about regulatory overstep that would deprive gun owners of choice, or quibble about what qualifies as a modern sporting rifle, as if it were a term that could not reasonably be defined.

The upshot of staying in the weeds is that our elected representatives have been at odds about what a ban on assault weapons should or should not look like for years on end. All the while, new assault weapons are being sold into our towns and cities – more than 20 million are now in circulation.

That is not to say that there is not critical detail and definition that needs to be carefully negotiated. But at some point, and we firmly believe that point is now, lawmakers must set aside differing ideals and get real about putting an end to the availability of these guns.

Responding to the events in Lewiston, President Biden urged lawmakers in Congress to “end immunity from liability for gun manufacturers.”

In calling for our senators to lend their support to a ban on assault weapons, we are urging the same. Until that happens, it should not be hard for anybody to say that these guns simply do not belong in people’s hands. And how best to achieve that end? By instituting a federal ban on their sale.

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