By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The recent tragic mass shooting in Maine, which claimed the lives of 18 individuals, has prompted a significant shift in perspective for U.S. Representative Jared Golden. Having previously opposed a ban on assault-style weapons, Golden now advocates for stricter gun control measures.
However, Golden’s change of heart does not alter the political landscape in Washington. President ‘s ongoing efforts to reinstate a ban on assault weapons face staunch opposition from the Republican Party, which controls the House of Representatives and supports gun rights.
Jared Golden, a conservative Democrat who represents a district that backed former President in the 2020 election, expressed regret for his previous stance, acknowledging that he had been falsely confident in his community’s immunity to such violence.
In a statement, Golden declared, “The time has come for me to take responsibility for this failure. Therefore, I call upon the United States Congress to implement a ban on assault rifles like the one used by the perpetrator in this devastating mass shooting that occurred in my hometown of Lewiston, Maine. I humbly seek forgiveness and support as I strive to bring an end to these horrific acts of violence.”
President Biden expressed condolences on Friday, mourning “another senseless and tragic mass shooting” and urging Republicans to collaborate on passing comprehensive gun control legislation. His proposed bill includes provisions for banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, enforcing universal background checks, requiring safe storage of firearms, and removing immunity from liability for gun manufacturers.
Congressional aides, however, confirmed that there is currently no active attempt to pass such a bill. Successfully enacting an assault weapons ban would require majority approval in the Republican-controlled House and at least 60 votes in the Senate, which consists of 100 members.
Mike Johnson, the newly appointed Speaker of the House, firmly dismissed the idea of additional legislation during an interview with Fox News, emphasizing that the root of the issue lies in human behavior rather than firearm accessibility.
Johnson stated, “The problem is the human heart. It’s not guns. It’s not the weapons. We must prioritize the citizens’ right to defend themselves, protected by the Second Amendment. That is why our party remains steadfast in our support. Now is not the appropriate time for discussions regarding legislation.”
Democrats, backed by anti-gun violence organizations, have long advocated for the renewal of a federal ban on assault-style weapons, originally implemented in 1994 and expired in 2004. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution ensures the right to bear arms. However, Republicans, supported by influential gun rights lobbyists, generally resist restrictions on gun ownership.
Opinion polls indicate that a majority of Americans support stricter gun laws, including background checks and “red flag” laws that prevent potentially dangerous individuals from possessing firearms. However, the public is more evenly divided on the issue of banning assault-style rifles.
In recent years, the United States has experienced numerous massacres involving assault-style weapons. As President Biden gears up for his reelection campaign in 2024, it is anticipated that he will prioritize proposals for tighter gun control as a key component of his platform.
Last year, Congress achieved a significant milestone by passing the first substantial gun control legislation in three decades. This bipartisan measure reinforced background checks for potential gun purchasers with prior convictions related to domestic violence or significant offenses they committed as juveniles.
Simultaneously, the U.S. Supreme Court expanded gun rights by ruling that Americans possess a constitutional right to carry handguns for self-defense in public.
If Democrats wish to pass an assault-style weapons ban in the future, they will need to secure a majority in the 435-seat House and gain additional seats in the 100-member Senate, where they currently hold a 51-49 advantage.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Heather Timmons and Jonathan Oatis)