Republican critics lashed out at Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden for changing his position on a proposed assault weapons ban after 18 people were killed by a gunman in Lewiston.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden stands between Lewiston City Councilor Stephanie Gelinas and Central Maine Healthcare president Steven Littleson during Thursday evening’s press conference at Lewiston City Hall. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Golden, who lives in Lewiston, said Thursday at a City Hall press conference that he had been wrong to oppose the ban and would “work with any colleague to get this done in the time that I have left in Congress.”

So-called “assault weapons,” or “assault rifles” are terms that are often used to describe some semi-automatic rifles that are typically used by military personnel, such as an AK-47. Most shooting sports and 2nd Amendment advocates do to not consider rifles such as the AR-15 assault weapons, but the issue has become the subject of a national debate on its classification.

Two state representatives who are vying in a GOP primary to face Golden next year in Maine’s closely divided 2nd Congressional District quickly denounced the lawmaker’s shift on the controversial issue.

“Shame on Congressman Golden for using this tragedy to advance a liberal political agenda,” said state Rep. Mike Soboleski of Phillips. “Now is not the time for politics.”

State Rep. Austin Theriault of Fort Kent called it “unfortunate and frustrating” that Golden and President Joe Biden would “try to score political points” during “this time of tragedy.”


Republicans said that instead of limiting access to assault weapons like the one used to mow down people at two entertainment venues Wednesday evening, political leaders should focus their attention on improving the nation’s mental health system.

“For decades we have failed to invest in the people who are struggling the most, and we are seeing the consequences of our political inaction,” Theriault said, adding that he wants to see “the largest-ever investment in mental health care and access that the country has ever seen.”

The other Republican congressional hopeful, Robert Cross of Dedham, didn’t lash out at Golden.

“As the situation in Lewiston continues to unfold, we lift the victims, their families, law enforcement, and local officials up in prayer,” Cross said. “We may never make sense of what occurred, but we move forward, united as one Maine together.”

Golden could not be reached for comment Friday.

He said Thursday at City Hall that he has consistently “opposed efforts to ban deadly weapons of war, like the assault rifle used to carry out this crime.”

Then Golden surprised the political world, and many constituents, by declaring, “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.”

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