Just over a month since a mass shooting in Lewiston claimed the lives of 18 people, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King announced Thursday that he will be introducing legislation aimed at curbing mass killings and gun violence.
The bill, the “Gas-Operated Semi-Automatic Firearms Exclusion (GOSAFE) Act,” increases regulations and restrictions on the sale, transfer, and manufacture of gas-operated semi-automatic weapons.
The legislation is being co-sponsored by two Democratic Senators, Mark Kelly of Arizona and Michael Bennet of Colorado.
“For years, I have said that rather than using the appearance of these guns to restrict them, we should instead focus on how these weapons actually work and the features that make them especially dangerous,” Sen. King said Thursday.
King, who was propelled into his first political office as governor of Maine with the support of an unlikely endorsement from the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, has historically cast himself as an ally of gun owners and Maine hunters.
The GOSAFE Act would establish a list of prohibited firearms, prevent unlawful modifications of permissible firearms, mandate that future gas-operated designs are approved before manufacture, and prevent firearm self-assembly and manufacturing.
Nothing in King’s bill would restrict the firearms, magazines, or ammunition, that federal agents — like employees of the Internal Revenue Service — are allowed to wield.
King says these restrictions address “the lethal capacity weapons like the one used in Lewiston and most of the deadliest mass shootings across the country.”
“Nothing can bring back the lives of our family and friends, but responsible actions moving forward can reduce the likelihood of such a nightmare happening again in Maine or anywhere else,” he added.
The bill would also limit high-capacity ammunition devices — limiting the number of rounds such devices are permitted to carry to 10 rounds or fewer, and would make semi-automatic to automatic conversion devices, including bump stocks and Glock switches, illegal.
King’s GOSAFE Act would limit rifles and shotguns to 10 rounds or less, and handguns to 15 rounds or less.
Under the bill those capacity limitations must be “permanently fixed,” meaning the firearm cannot accept a detachable, high-capacity magazine.
In order to protect Americans’ “constitutional right to own a gun based on a firearm’s established used for self-defense, hunting, and sporting purposes,” certain exemptions are included in the bill based on a firearms’ classification: a rifle, shotgun, or handgun.
- .22 caliber rimfire or less firearms
- Bolt action rifles
- Semi-automatic shotguns
- Recoil-operated handguns
- Any rifle with a permanently fixed magazine of 10 rounds or less
- Any shotgun with a permanently fixed magazine of 10 rounds or less
- Any handgun with a permanently fixed magazine of 15 rounds or less
The GOSAFE Act also proposes establishing a voluntary gun buy-back program, allowing firearm owners to voluntarily turn over their firearms that would be non-transferrable as defined by the legislation in exchange for compensation.
“Angus King is attacking the rights of the people he’s getting paid a lot of money to represent. Mainers should speak out against this power grab,” Maine GOP Chairman Joel Stetkis said in a statement on Sen. King’s bill Thursday.
“This bill will not pass for two reasons: Because Angus King is a terrible legislator with no accomplishments, and because attacking the rights of Mainers who want to defend themselves has always been a bad idea,” Stetkis said.
“It’s more likely that Maine gets no snow this winter than Angus King passes any substantial legislation,” he added. “He should resign and let someone who will do literally anything to help Mainers run for his seat.”
This story was updated to include a statement from Maine GOP Chairman Joel Stetkis.