Tragedy in Maine
Robert Card’s actions in Lewiston, Maine on Wednesday, October 25, marked the 560th mass shooting to take place in the United States this year. Before taking his own life, Card fatally shot 18 people in a bowling alley and restaurant in the city and sent another 13 victims to the hospital.
It's unclear what led the 40-year-old U.S. Army Reservist to commit these actions but there were signs of deteriorating mental health. He had recently been fired from a recycling facility and he had a history of mental health problems, including reports of hearing voices and suffering from paranoia. Card had also made threats against the National Guard and had been admitted to New York Hospital for a two-week stay.
His erratic behavior raised concerns among the Army, leading to a police intervention in July. He even made threats against the National Guard and voluntarily admitted himself to New York Hospital for a two-week stay.
His sister-in-law informed both the police and the Army about his deteriorating mental state. This has prompted calls for an explanation from lawmakers and law enforcement. Maine's 'Yellow-Flag' law allows police to temporarily confiscate firearms if an individual is deemed a danger to themselves or others. Despite Card's alarming behavior, law enforcement didn't utilize this law or initiate a forced mental health evaluation, leaving many questions unanswered.
Card's threats led to a statewide alert by Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry, with increased patrols but Card remained elusive. Some 20 states have a “Red-Flag” law allowing family members to seek court-ordered firearm confiscation without a medical evaluation. Such a law could have been pivotal in preventing Card’s actions. Critics blame the Army for negligence but as a reservist, they had limited visibility into his mental decline.
Police confirmed that all of Card’s firearms had been purchased legally, revealing that this incident goes beyond the hysteric calls for gun control in the state. Card had once been a trained, responsible gun owner but these events have provided the nation with an unfortunate reminder that reform of our veteran health care and mental health services is necessary to protect our communities.
Before igniting gun debates across the nation, we should shift our focus away from Card’s weapon of choice and look at the state of mind that led him to his actions on October 25. The tragedy of this event sheds light on the need for better care of our service members to ensure that they can competently continue to defend this nation.
Eighty-two-year-old Navy veteran, Phil Bickett, was relieved to hear that the Lewiston manhunt was over but he remains frustrated that Card would never face justice for his actions. Such emotions of anger and grief linger in the atmosphere of Lewiston but Saturday’s candlelight vigil for the victims reveals that the potential for a healing, brighter future lies ahead for this community.