LEWISTON, Maine — At a news conference in his hometown Thursday evening in Lewiston, Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat who had enjoyed an A+ rating from gun rights advocates, said he regretted his past opposition to an assault weapons ban and said he would now support a ban.

At least 18 people were killed and 13 injured Wednesday night in deadly shootings in Maine.

“The time has now come for me to take responsibility for this failure, which is why I now call on the United States Congress to ban assault rifles, like the one used by the sick perpetrator of this mass killing in my hometown of Lewiston, Maine,” said Golden, who represents a largely rural district that includes Lewiston.

“To the victims and their families,” he said, “I ask for your forgiveness and support as I seek to put an end to these terrible shootings.”

Golden said he didn’t think a mass killing like the one in his hometown could happen in Maine, which has the lowest violent crime rate in the nation.

“I had the false confidence that our community was above this,” he added.

Last year, House Democrats narrowly passed an assault weapons ban for the first time in roughly 30 years. Golden, who represents a competitive swing district and is a member of the moderate group of Blue Dog Democrats, was one of five House Democrats who voted against the ban. The legislation was never brought to a vote in the Senate.

It’s unlikely the Republican-led House would move forward with a similar ban in this Congress.

After Golden changed his position on the ban, Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) — who previously organized with the gun control advocacy group March for Our Lives — commended the Maine congressman.

Live updates on the search for Maine shooting suspect

“It takes a lot of courage to go on national television and admit that you were wrong about something,” Frost posted on X, formally known as Twitter, encouraging his followers to donate to Golden’s 2024 reelection campaign.

At Thursday’s news conference alongside other officeholders, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was pressed on whether she, too, would support an assault weapons ban. She said she thinks it’s “more important” and more effective to ban “very high-capacity magazines.”

Maine’s loose gun laws were brought under fresh scrutiny after Wednesday’s shootings.

It’s not clear whether Maine’s yellow flag law, which allows firearms to be temporarily confiscated in high-risk situations, was triggered in the Lewiston suspect’s case. But Collins said Thursday that a yellow flag “should have been triggered, if, in fact, the suspect was hospitalized for two weeks for a mental illness … that should have triggered the yellow flag law and he should have been separated from his weapons.”

Collins said that she looked out her office window in Washington on Thursday morning and noticed the flag had been lowered to half-staff.

“And I realized that it had been done to honor the victims of this horrific attack,” she said.

Maegan Vazquez reported from Washington. Maxine Joselow and Silvia Foster-Frau contributed to this report.

More on the Maine shootings

A search for suspect Robert Card is ongoing after at least 18 people were killed and 13 were injured in two shootings at a bowling alley and a bar on Wednesday night in Lewiston, Maine. Follow live updates from our reporters.

The suspect: Col. William Ross of the Maine State Police said an arrest warrant has been issued for the suspected gunman, Robert Card, for eight counts of murder. Here’s what we know about Card.

Where the shootings happened: Authorities said the shootings unfolded at Just-In-Time Recreation, a bowling alley formerly known as Sparetime Recreation, and Schemengees Bar and Grille, a restaurant about four miles away. Here’s what we know about the shootings.

Mass killings in America: The Maine attack marks the deadliest shooting in the United States this year.

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