Lawmakers have returned to Augusta, Maine for the start of the 2024 session, and gun control is likely to be the main issue for legislators in the weeks ahead. The mass murders in Lewiston in late October and the government failures that led to the killer being able to carry out his attack are still under investigation by a number of officials, including the Army Inspector General, but gun control activists and anti-2A politicians aren’t waiting for answers. Instead, they’re pushing for a wave of new restrictions aimed at legal gun owners across the state.
Representative Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, founded the gun safety caucus and remained its co-chair Tuesday, when she met with NEWS CENTER Maine over Zoom. She believed common ground could be found on policy positions like red flag laws, universal background checks, and a waiting period to buy a gun. “Red flag laws” are the stricter cousin to Maine’s “yellow flag law.” Maine requires no background check for buying firearms and reverts to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
Maine voters have largely stood their ground during attempts to pass gun reform measures, including a 2016 referendum vote expanded background checks, which narrowly failed. Some opposed to the measure claimed the language was taken from out-of-state proposals that included confusing language involving hunting parties and family transactions.
“Is this kind of thing a challenge in Maine? It is a challenge,” Doudera said of passing gun reform. “But what I think has changed since the Lewiston shooting is the realization for everyday Mainers that gun violence isn’t just something that we read about in the paper in other states.”
That doesn’t mean that Mainers have bought into the idea that more restrictions on their right to keep and bear arms is going to make the state a safer place, especially when it looks like there were multiple opportunities to take the killer into custody for a mental health check or even charge him with a felony before he carried out his attack. David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsmans Alliance of Maine, recently detailed those failures, including a warning to law enforcement back in May of 2023 that the suspect was experiencing “paranoia” and “deteriorating mental health”, including threats to shoot someone.
On September 15th, five weeks before the killer opened fire at multiple locations in Lewiston, the Maine National Guard requested police conduct a welfare check.
The first sentence from the police narrative: “I received a complaint from the Maine National Guard asking me to perform a welfare check on Robert Card.” It goes on, “As of recent, it has come to the Guard’s attention that Card is having psychotic episodes where he is hearing voices that are insulting him, calling him a pedophile.” “Card is also making threats to shoot up the Saco National Guard facility. He had been committed (to a mental facility in New York) over the summer for a couple of weeks due to his altered mental state but has since been released.”
Making a credible threat against a military facility is a felony. This accusation and other contributing factors established probable Cause that a crime may have been committed and another may be imminent. Why was this complaint only a “wellness check” not a warrant for his arrest, with a search warrant?
The responding deputy police officer reports going to Card’s residence, finds no one home, hands off the complaint to the evening shift and then cuts and pastes a letter. Excerpts from this letter appear below.
“Card is one of my senior firearm instructors in Bravo Company in Saco. Card has been hearing voices calling him a pedophile and other insults. This hearing voices started in the spring and is only getting worse.” It goes on, “On July 15, 2023, while at West Point, Card was hanging out with several other soldiers at the hotel they were staying. In the parking lot, Card accused three of them of calling him a pedophile.” A shoving match ensued. When things calmed down Card said, “he would take care of it.” When pressed by officers/reservists what he meant by that statement, he would not answer. Card went on to lock himself in his hotel room and refused to answer. The next morning his fellow soldiers got a key to his room and opened the door. After another scrap, officers/reservists decided to call their commander and it was decided to take him to a mental health facility and he spent 14 days in that hospital.
It went on, “To my knowledge he has not sought any more treatment since being released.”
We know very little about what happened that led to Card being committed to this facility. Was he forced into care, or did he voluntarily submit for evaluation? What were the diagnoses and treatment he received? Was he medicated and what follow-up treatment was recommended? Did they explore his loss of hearing as the source of his altered mental status? Was his right to own and purchase firearms altered? What were the conditions of his release?
The media and gun control groups have adopted a narrative that Maine’s “yellow flag” law somehow failed, when the truth is that it was never invoked in the first place, even after authorities had become aware of the threats he was making after spending several weeks in a mental health facility in New York.
We also know that even California’s 10-day waiting period, “red flag” law, universal background checks, and “assault weapon” and magazine bans haven’t been able to stop active shooters from carrying out their cowardly attacks on innocent lives, so why would we think that these restrictions would be any more useful in Maine? If lawmakers in Augusta want to “do something” in response to the horrific killings in Lewiston, they should focus on uncovering the failures of government and ensuring that those mistakes can’t happen in the future instead of offering Mainers the false promise of increased safety at the expense of their right to defend themselves.