We’ll see how long this lasts, but while the gun control lobby wasted no time in demanding changes to Maine’s gun laws after the mass murder in Lewiston on Monday evening, Gov. Janet Mills wisely ignored those calls in her first public comments on Thursday, unlike the current occupant of the Oval Office.
Instead, the governor asked Mainers to show love, compassion, and concern for each other going forward, even as police continue searching for the suspect they believe is responsible for murdering 18 people and wounding 13 others in two separate attacks on businesses in Lewiston, Maine.
At the same press conference where Mills addressed reporters and residents, Maine State Police Col. William Ross reported that seven people were killed at the bowling alley Just In Time, where a 911 call was made to police at 6:53 p.m. Wednesday evening. At 7:08 p.m., police received multiple 911 calls reporting shots fired at a restaurant and billiard hall called Schemengees. When officers arrived on the scene, they found another eight people deceased; seven individuals inside and one person outside the restaurant. Ross reported another three people were taken to local hospitals, but passed away from their injuries.
All but one of the victims were male, with a woman among the victims at Just In Time. Ross didn’t reveal the ages of any of the victims, nor did he indicate if the suspect had intentionally been targeting men or choosing his victims at random, but those are among a number of questions that remain unanswered at the moment.
The most important question right now is “where is the suspect?” While authorities in Maine continue their search around the Lewiston area, police in Massachusetts sent out a BOLO alert on a blue Chevy Suburban with Maine license plate 6625ZD. That report apparently stems from a New Hampshire resident who reported to police that he saw a man resembling the suspect in that vehicle, which was headed south towards Massachusetts. So far, however, there’s been no corroboration by Maine State Police that they’re looking for that SUV as well.
While Mills didn’t bring up gun control in her remarks, reporters on hand for the Wednesday morning press conference peppered Mills, Ross, and other officials with questions about the gun that was used in the attack, as well as details on reports that the suspect was committed to a mental health facility earlier this year. According to one unnamed official who spoke to the AP, however, the suspect first raised red flags during a training exercise this summer.
Military commanders in the Army Reserve’s 3rd Battalion, 304th Infantry Regiment said they observed Card acting erratically while the unit was training at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York. Card was taken to the Keller Army Community Hospital in West Point.
A police bulletin sent to law enforcement said he had been in a mental health facility for two weeks this summer, and that he had reported “hearing voices and threats to shoot up” the military base. No information was provided about Card’s treatment or diagnosis.
If Maine’s “yellow flag” law was never used against the suspect, the fact that he received mental health treatment at an Army facility in New York might help explain why. But if the suspect was in the hospital for a period of weeks, and not just while an evaluation was taking place, then that should have been an adjudication of mental illness and a disqualifier when it came to legally owning or possessing a firearm… at least if that was reported.
Again, there are a lot of unanswered questions at the moment, along with too many politicians who claim that the answer to stopping these kinds of attacks is to ban guns.
President Joe Biden renewed his call for a ban on assault weapons following multiple shootings in Lewiston that killed 18 people and injured 13 others.
“Today, in the wake of yet another tragedy, I urge Republican lawmakers in Congress to fulfill their duty to protect the American people,” Biden said in a statement. “Work with us to pass a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, to enact universal background checks, to require safe storage of guns, and end immunity from liability for gun manufacturers. This is the very least we owe every American who will now bear the scars — physical and mental — of this latest attack.”
No, the least we owe those folks who are grieving, mourning, and still in shock is to recognize their humanity instead of turning them into a talking point to be exploited. That’s clearly a bridge too far for Biden, but I’m glad that at least Gov. Mills understands that fact.