U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat who often bucks his party on gun control issues, said he would vote for a bipartisan gun, mental health and school safety bill set to come up in the House on Friday.
The legislation, developed by a bipartisan group of senators, including Susan Collins, R-Maine, in the aftermath of the shooting at a Texas elementary school, is the first major gun legislation likely to pass Congress in nearly three decades.
Golden voted against a broader gun package put forward by House Democrats earlier this month that stood little chance of passing the Senate. He represents the gun-friendly 2nd Congressional District, where voters rejected a 2016 referendum on universal background checks.
The bipartisan bill that passed the Senate would provide funding to help states implement laws that allow guns to be seized from people experiencing severe mental health crises, including Maine’s so-called yellow flag law. It also lengthens the process for background checks for people younger than 21, increases penalties for straw purchases and allocates funds for mental health services.
“This legislation strikes the right balance between getting firearms out of the hands of violent offenders and those who have become a danger to themselves or others and protecting the Second Amendment and due process rights of law-abiding American citizens,” Golden said in a Thursday night statement.
The sophomore representative, who is facing a reelection challenge from former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, cited in part the support for the bill from the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, a group that lobbies on gun issues and conservation here. The alliance backs the bill despite opposition from larger national groups, such as the National Rifle Association.
A Poliquin spokesperson did not respond to an inquiry Friday morning about whether he would back the bill. Poliquin told radio station WVOM last week that he was waiting to see the final language but Congress should act to protect kids in school.
A handful of congressional Republicans have come out in support for the bill, but House Republican leaders oppose it. That latter group includes House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who is headlining a Bangor fundraiser for Poliquin’s campaign on Tuesday.