From left: Jared Golden, Susan Collins, Angus King and Chellie Pingree Credit: BDN composite

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation called for action after a gunman killed 21 people, mostly children, at an elementary school in Texas late Tuesday, the worst mass shooting at a school in a decade.

The deadly shooting — which came just 10 days after a racist shooting spree left 10 people dead in Buffalo, New York — prompted a flurry of attention on gun control in Congress on Wednesday. It is an issue that lawmakers have largely been deadlocked on in recent years, and no votes seem imminent.

Maine politicians in recent decades have generally been skeptical of stricter gun control measures, tracking with public opinion here. A universal background check failed in 2016. But any policy with a chance of passage would likely need the support of Maine’s delegation in the closely divided Congress.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, and Sen. Angus King, an independent, renewed calls on Wednesday for universal background checks. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, focused on a federal version of Maine’s “yellow flag” law. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the more gun-friendly 2nd District, was the most careful and least specific, saying lawmakers should get on the facts and then consider “realistic policies” to prevent similar acts in the future.

Collins’ office confirmed on Wednesday that she had been in touch with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, who has been a leading advocate for gun control in the Senate after a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 kids, in a 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s shooting, Collins called for a federal version of Maine’s “yellow flag” law, which allows law enforcement to confiscate weapons through a legal process if a medical professional determines a person poses a significant threat to themselves or others. Some states have more stringent “red flag” laws that do not require medical input.

A potential model for such legislation could be a bill developed by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and backed by King that would establish a grant system to help states implement red flag laws. The bill was first developed in the aftermath of a shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, but was reintroduced last year.

A spokesperson for King, who caucuses with the Democrats, also pointed to the independent senator’s past support for universal background checks and closing loopholes that allow people to purchase guns without passing one.

Pingree, a reliably progressive Democrat representing the 1st District, said there was “no good reason” the background checks bill that passed the House last year has not made it through the Senate. The bill does not seem to have 60 votes to overcome the Senate filibuster, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, indicated on Wednesday that he is not immediately planning to bring it up.

But she went further, saying Congress must “again ban weapons of war on our streets.” She is also co-sponsoring legislation to reinstate the ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004.

Golden was the only member of the delegation who did not immediately call for changes to gun policy on Wednesday. In a statement, he characterized the Texas shooting as “heartbreaking” and “purely evil.” But he said he would not be “pointing fingers” right now, saying doing so would not bring about change or help the families affected by the shooting.

The congressman, who is facing a difficult reelection race in the 2nd District, was the only Democrat to oppose the background checks bill in the House last year, citing in part its similarities to the 2016 referendum Maine voters rejected. He did not endorse or rule out other policy discussions, such as a yellow flag law, saying more information was needed about the circumstances of the Texas shooting to understand the policies needed to prevent similar acts.

“I will be talking with my colleagues and with my constituents about what could have been done to stop it and what realistic policies could be considered to help prevent another senseless act of violence like this from happening again in the future,” Golden said.