An Army Reservist and military firearms instructor with a history of serious mental health problems murdered 18 people and wounded 13 others Oct. 25 at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston, Maine.
Robert Card, 40, led state and local law enforcement agencies on a multiday manhunt that left an entire county of terrified Maine residents locked in their homes. Ultimately, he killed himself.
In typical fashion, many prominent gun control activists wasted little time trying to capitalize on the massacres and launched into social media tirades full of their standard talking points, with little regard for precautions such as “waiting on facts” or “employing sound logic.”
Here are three of the most egregious claims made by gun control advocates in the wake of the Lewiston shooting rampage—and why they’re wrong.
Claim No. 1: The Lewiston Killer Was a ‘Good Guy With a Gun’
Just one day after the shooting rampage, an Ivy League professor who wrote a book on gun control took to social media to claim that “until the moment he opened fire at a bowling alley in Lewiston, Card was a good guy with a gun.”
The obvious implication is that he was indistinguishable from millions of Americans who are lawful gun owners, and that all such ordinary gun owners, therefore, pose a threat to public safety because they are just as likely to suddenly turn their firearms on innocent victims.
It’s very apparent, however, that those in Card’s life didn’t simply mistake him for a “good guy with a gun.”
Quite the opposite.
Like the vast majority of mass public shooters, he had a lengthy history of serious mental health problems and violent behaviors. Virtually everyone around him (including the military) recognized that he shouldn’t have access to firearms, according to published reports.
Family members recognized as early as last January that his mental health was declining. By May, some grew so concerned that they contacted both local law enforcement and his Army Reserve unit to report that Card was angry, paranoid, and likely hearing voices. They expressed particular concerns over his access to at least a dozen firearms.
In July, while he trained with his Army Reserve unit, his superiors were so worried about his erratic and violent behavior that they ordered him to undergo a mental health evaluation. An Army psychologist “determined he needed further treatment, ABC News reported.
Card ultimately spent two weeks receiving inpatient treatment at a military psychiatric hospital. Around this time, the Army further designated him as “nondeployable,” revoked his access to weapons and ammunition, and prohibited him from all “live fire activity.”
In September, his Army Reserve unit contacted the local sheriff’s office and requested a welfare check after another soldier warned that Card was hearing voices and explicitly threatened to commit a mass shooting at the base. He allegedly punched this soldier for expressing concerns about these threats.
Texts obtained by journalists show that fellow soldiers were so concerned, they asked superiors to change a passcode for the unit’s gate and to have armed security meet him should he show up at the base.
Clearly, many people in this man’s life were able to discern long before he murdered 18 and wounded 13 that he was a danger to himself and others, and not some ordinary lawful gun owner.
In fact, there’s good reason to believe that he wasn’t a lawful gun owner in the first place. The available evidence suggests that his inpatient commitment was involuntary, and he therefore was prohibited by law from possessing firearms under federal law. At the very least, he believed this to be the case, and reportedly blamed a specific soldier as being “the reason he [couldn’t] own guns.”
To suggest that Card was just an ordinary gun owner is not just to ignore the final 12 months of his life, but also to slander tens of millions of peaceable gun owners who are not and never have constituted a danger to themselves or others.
Claim No. 2: Maine Republicans Rejected a ‘Waiting Period’ Bill That Would Have Prevented the Rampage
Directly following the Lewiston shootings, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, blasted Maine’s Republican state legislators for rejecting a bill earlier in the year that would have required a 72-hour “waiting period” before a person could take possession of a purchased firearm.
Newsom strongly implied that had this law been in effect in Maine, it would have prevented the shooting rampage.
The most glaring problem with Newsom’s claim is that Maine is controlled by Democrat majorities in both houses of the state Legislature, Maine also has a Democrat governor. The bill in question was rejected by a bipartisan coalition—overwhelmingly so in the state Senate, where nearly as many Democrats voted against it as did Republicans.
Regardless of who is to “blame” for the bill’s failure to pass, no evidence suggests that the change in law would have meaningfully altered what happened. Even if one were to accept the dubious, unsupported assertion that some would-be mass public shooters who don’t already possess guns might be meaningfully deterred by a “cooling-off period,” this couldn’t logically apply here.
Card bought the rifle he used during the shooting on July 6, which was 10 days before he was ordered to inpatient psychiatric treatment and more than three months before he would use the rifle to commit mass murder.
Moreover, it’s clear that he already had access to multiple firearms as early as May, well before the waiting period bill (rejected in June) would have gone into effect if passed.
Claim No. 3: This Shooting Happened Because Maine Has ‘Weak Gun Laws’
The Lewiston shooting rampage, while tragic, is an anomaly that doesn’t point to a broader violence problem within Maine that must be addressed with a slew of restrictive gun control laws.
Despite regularly receiving “low grades” from gun control groups, year after year Maine is one of the safest states in the nation with respect to violent crime generally and homicide specifically.
This was, in fact, the first and only mass public shooting to have occurred in Maine, according to the Mother Jones Mass Public Shooting Database. Moreover, despite the fact that this single, shocking crime may well double the state’s homicide rate in 2023, Maine still would be one of the top 15 safest states and well ahead of gun control stalwarts such as California, New York, and Illinois.
These facts, of course, bring no comfort to the families of the victims. But it absolutely should inform public policy decisions moving forward.
The reality is that even if Card wasn’t technically a prohibited gun owner under federal law, Maine’s current laws nevertheless provided state and local officials with several clear avenues for meaningful intervention.
Law enforcement officials could have invoked Maine’s “yellow flag” law and petitioned a court to allow them to seize Card’s guns temporarily because he had become a danger to himself or others. They apparently declined to pursue this solution, even though he clearly fit the criteria.
The state also could have used its laws on civil mental health commitment to put him under an emergency mental health hold, then involuntarily commit him to inpatient mental health treatment. Given that he literally was hearing voices and actively threatening to commit mass violence, he was a clear candidate for this process.
Finally, even if officials for some reason believed that Card wasn’t mentally ill “enough” for them to pursue these civil remedies, they certainly could have arrested him and charged him with the criminal offense of “terrorizing.” In Maine, this occurs when a person “communicat[es] a threat to commit a crime of violence dangerous to [a] human.”
There’s no question that threatening to commit a mass public shooting at a military base qualifies under this definition.
Without a doubt, had Card been charged with this offense and held without bail while awaiting trial, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to kill 18 and wound 13. And because a conviction carries a potential sentence of more than a year in prison, even if he were merely sentenced to probation, he would have been a “prohibited” person, his current firearms could have been seized, and it would have been unlawful for family members to transfer firearms back to him.
In short, Maine officials didn’t need new or different laws to prevent this horrific bloodshed. They simply needed to enforce existing laws—and take this firearms instructor seriously when he threatened to commit mass violence.
No doubt the Lewiston community is devastated by these senseless murders. The whole nation grieves along with it.
But tragedy is not an excuse for anti-gun activists to make wild claims and push a gun control agenda that wouldn’t have saved a single life.
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