Maine Senators Question Army Inspector General Over Handling of Lewiston Killer's Mental Issues

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

When Joe Biden visited Lewiston, Maine last Friday, he studiously ignored the fact that the man responsible for the murder of 18 people had been involuntarily committed just a few months before he carried out his attack. Instead, Biden vaguely called on Congress to pass “common sense, reasonable measures” without naming any specific policies.

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Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, on the other hand, aren’t ignoring the troubling questions raised by the killer’s involuntary commitment and the FBI’s statement that he wasn’t listed as a prohibited person in the National Instant Check System database. Now they’re asking the Army’s Inspector General for answers.

In a Nov. 2 letter to Army Inspector General Lt. Gen. Donna Martin, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King questioned why Army officials didn’t appear to trigger laws in two states designed to disarm dangerous people, despite [Card’s] threat to “shoot up” the Army Reserve base in Saco.

Collins and King cited Card’s “troubling behaviors” leading up to the shooting, citing a Bangor Daily News report from last week.

In their letter to Martin, the senators posed seven specific questions about how the Army handled of the killer’s mental health, both before and after he spent several weeks in an Army medical facility earlier this summer.

  • What concerns were raised by (or to) Army personnel regarding Mr. Card, including with regard to his mental health? When were those concerns raised, and what actions were taken in response?
  • Were existing Army regulations, policies, and procedures followed with regard to Mr. Card?
  • Under what circumstances does the Army report its personnel to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)?
  • Under what circumstances would the Army seek to invoke a state’s crisis intervention laws to temporarily remove firearms from the possession of a soldier who is a danger to themselves or others? Were any attempts to invoke such laws made with regard to Mr. Card?
  • Is there anything that Army personnel should (or could) have done consistent with existing law to prevent the events of October 25, 2023?
  • Are there any existing laws, regulations, policies, or procedures that prevented the Army from alerting or communicating with any judicial, law enforcement, healthcare, or other entities that could have taken action to prevent the mass shooting on October 25, 2023?
  • What reforms or actions, if any, is the Army undertaking in response to the events of October 25, 2023? What actions does your Office believe the Army should take?
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If, as the Boston Globe first reported, the killer was involuntarily committed to an Army hospital in New York while on a training exercise, that should have at least triggered a notification to the NICS system. The killer self-reported himself as adjudicated as mentally defective or involuntarily committed when trying to purchase a suppressor after he’d been released, which caused the gun shop handling the transaction to deny him, but the FBI has maintained that he was not in the NICS database at the time the shooting took place.

In addition to the apparent failure to report the commitment to NICS, there’s no sign that Army Reserve officials in Maine ever attempted to use the state’s “yellow flag” law. That would have triggered another mental health evaluation, this time in Maine and not New York, and would have likely led to another involuntary commitment or the temporary removal of his firearms. One of the talking points from anti-gun activists in the wake of the mass murders in Lewiston is that the law “failed”, but the truth is that it was never used in the first place.

We can argue about whether the “yellow flag” law offers enough due process protections to withstand constitutional scrutiny, but the gun control lobby has no qualms or concerns about that. They want to make it incredibly easy to “temporarily” revoke someone’s Second Amendment rights and requiring a mental health evaluation as a first step is a bridge too far. Instead, they’re lobbying to replace the “yellow flag” law with an expansive “red flag” version that doesn’t have any mental health component at all, allows for almost everyone to file a petition with the courts (unlike Maine’s law, which must be initiated by police), doesn’t provide access to an attorney for those who can’t afford one, and allows for guns to be taken and ERPO’s to be issued on an ex parte basis without the subject of the petition being able to offer a defense in their behalf.

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Collins and King are still embracing wrong-headed “solutions” like a ban on magazines over a certain capacity, but unlike Biden they’re at least willing to investigate the Army’s apparent failure and the role that it played in allowing the killer to carry out his attack. I’ll give them some credit for asking these questions of the Army IG, even if they’re barking up the wrong tree in calling for the creation of more non-violent, possessory crimes involving commonly-owed arms.

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