Maine Sen. Angus King: Why a Modest Gun Deal is a Necessary Gun Deal

Independent Senator champions modest new gun proposals, telling LX News “​​there's a difference between slow progress and no progress.”

BRUNSWICK, Maine - One of the Senate’s most moderate members says a new package of negotiated gun reforms doesn’t go far enough to address America’s gun violence epidemic, but Congress still must pass the package, which represents the most significant gun deal brokered by the legislative body in decades.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said lives would be saved by the proposed initiatives, including enhanced background checks for adults under 21 and funding for states to implement their own “red flag” laws for individuals deemed at-risk of violence.  

He compared the deal to a relationship that wasn’t necessarily seeking “Mr. Right,” but “Mr. Right Now.”

“I think it's the deal we can get [and] it really does some important things,” King said.  “It's a lot better - a lot better - than nothing.”

King was one of 20 Senators - including 10 Republicans - who endorsed the new framework, which appears to currently have the votes needed to clear a Senate filibuster.

While many advocates of new gun laws have also endorsed the deal, others have criticized it as too minimalist.  The deal does not include expanded background checks for most adults, federal “red flag” laws, limiting access to high-powered weapons and high-capacity magazines, or raising the minimum age to buy assault weapons from 18 to 21.

“I think changing the age to 21 to buy these rifles makes total sense,” King said.  “But we need the votes…we can't quite get there.”

Even maintaining the support of 10 Republicans could be challenging, as lawmakers race to hammer out exact language for the bill before the start of their July recess.  As NBC News reported, the fine details of the deal present significant challenges.

King said the longer it takes to put legislation to a vote, the longer its critics get to peel off support.

“I give the Republican members of the Senate a lot of credit for stepping out,” King said, “because they're going to get a lot of pushback in the next couple of weeks.”

But King said the majority of Americans want more “common-sense” gun regulations, and he’s hoping more conservatives come to the table to negotiate safer applications of the Second Amendment.

“The First Amendment says you have free speech [but] you don't have free speech to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” King said. “Every provision of the Constitution has some bounds and nothing's absolute; the Second Amendment is one of them.”

Last year, King joined Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed, as well as Florida Republicans Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, to sponsor the Extreme Risk Protection Order and Violence Prevention Act, which proposed federal funds for states passing their own “red flag” laws.

The idea made it into this week’s negotiated gun package, so King is hopeful Rubio and Scott - and other conservatives - will join the 10 Republicans who have already signed on to the deal to help get it across the finish line before the July 4 holiday.

Noah Pransky is LX News’ National Political Editor. His political and investigative work has been honored with national Murrow, Polk, duPont, and Cronkite awards. You can contact him confidentially at or on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.