The Maine Wire reached out to Maine’s top Republican lawmakers Thursday morning to get their thoughts on Wednesday evening’s shooting in Lewiston, which claimed the lives of 18 people and wounded 13.
The suspected shooter, 40-year-old Robert Card of Bowdoin, is still at-large and to be considered armed and dangerous, according to a statement by Maine State Police Thursday.
Local, county, state, and federal law enforcement agencies are currently engaged in widespread manhunt to locate Card, who currently has a warrant out for his arrest on eight counts of homicide — a count that is expected to increase to 18 once the remaining 10 victims are identified.
The Maine House Republicans released a statement Thursday morning saying that they are continuing “to monitor the horrific situation in the greater Lewiston area” and the ongoing manhunt for the person of interest.
“We grieve for the families of the 18 who were killed and 13 injured in this senseless tragedy,” the House Republicans stated.
“We thank the Lewiston Police Department, Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office, Maine State Police, our emergency first responders, local hospitals and federal authorities for their heroic efforts as the night unfolded and manhunt continues,” they continued. “We urge everyone to stay safe and vigilant by monitoring instructions and advisories from law enforcement, and stand ready to assist any way we can.”
Assistant Republican Leader of the Maine House of Representatives, Rep. Amy Arata (R-New Gloucester), told the Maine Wire Thursday that she has friends and colleagues who work in Lewiston, and that she keeps “looking at social media and news reports, trying to find out the names of the victims to see if there’s anybody I know among them.”
“So it’s, it’s tough. It’s definitely a difficult, difficult day,” Rep. Arata said.
The Republican House Minority Leader also commended the bravery of the law enforcement officers who are engaged in the ongoing search operation.
“Our law enforcement are searching right now for a man who’s armed and is a professionally trained killer,” Arata said. “And they’re searching out in the woods, along the river, for this professionally trained killer — and what amazing bravery they have. I’m so grateful that we have them.”
When asked what how Card, who per a police bulletin was committed to a mental health facility in the summer of 2023 for two weeks, could have possessed a firearm, Arata said it may have been a failure of the state’s yellow flag law.
“I was in the legislature when we passed our yellow flag law, and it seemed like a very good compromise, because Republicans and Democrats — we all want to keep guns out of the hands of people who are unsafe to have guns, we all agree on that,” Arata said.
“And so if there is some sort of failure, if this was a failure of the yellow flag law, we need to work together to fix it,” she added.
Maine’s yellow flag law allows for an individual in protective custody of law enforcement to have their firearms temporarily removed from their possession if they are judged to be a threat to themselves or others.
The law requires that a medical practitioner assess the individual in order to determine whether they are at risk of using guns to harm themselves or others.
“We’re still waiting to get all the details before I make any judgments,” Arata clarified about the yellow flag law issue. “There’s a lot that we don’t know about the shooter. There’s a lot that we don’t know about his treatment at a mental health facility, and so I’m waiting to get more information.”
Sen. Lisa Keim (R-Oxford), Assistant Senate Republican Minority Leader, also referenced the state’s yellow flag law when speaking to the Maine Wire Thursday, while also saying that currently it is not the time to get political.
“We have a killer on the loose — I think for anybody to get political about guns is the last thing that Mainers need right now,” Sen. Keim said. “That said, I did sponsor the yellow flag law, and we have tools in place in our law, as this situation unfolds we’ll find out more, but we have tools to prevent situations like this.”
“I don’t know the particulars of this situation, but it’s clearly a mental health crisis with this man, that seems — there are definitely reports of that,” she added. “The yellow flag law is meant to be capturing what this type of situation seems like it was. So without having the information and knowing what happened, we don’t know where the breakdown came about in this exact situation.”
Sen. Keim also spoke the “shock and horror,” as well as the confusion that all Mainers are facing in relation to the shooting.
“This is not Maine — my first thought was, this is not Maine,” Keim said. “It’s known to be one big small town, and the shockwaves of this tragedy is going to be felt by every single one of us.”
“Right now, I think it’s just important for Mainers to support one another and to offer the kindest and most generous spirit to each other while we grieve and when we get through this, the next hours — hopefully, while we wait for our law enforcement to catch this killer,” she said.
“We have phenomenal law enforcement, I’m incredibly grateful for all that they are doing and going through to create safety for us, and all the first responders from far and wide who came up to help,” the Republican Senate Minority Leader said.
“Right now, it’s good for us to focus on the fact that we are all coming together in this tragic circumstance,” she emphasized. “The time for answering our questions, and trying to figure out what went wrong, and what we could have done differently — there will be a time for that, but it’s just not now.”
Sen. Eric Brakey, a Republican who represents parts of Androscoggin County, where Wednesday’s shooting took place, slammed Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom for posting on X just hours after the horrific shooting.
Gov. Newsom wrote Wednesday evening that “Republicans in Maine rejected a bill this year that would have required a waiting period for firearm purchases.”
Newsom called for “immediate action,” and said that “we cannot sit around for Congress,” pushing for his proposed Constitutional gun control amendment.
“Please stay the hell away from our state and stop politicizing the murder of our friends and neighbors for your political agendas,” Sen. Brakey wrote in response to the California governor’s post.
“I don’t appreciate when some governor from halfway around the country, who doesn’t know anyone here in these communities, before we even know the facts and what happened, we don’t know the motivation, we haven’t even apprehended the individual who’s believed to be responsible for this,” Brakey told the Maine Wire Thursday.
“And yet you have some governor of California suddenly using this as an opportunity to politically grandstand to push a political agenda,” he said. “I mean, give it a day.”
“Certainly when it comes to our firearm rights, we’ve had strong bipartisan coalitions in defense of people’s Second Amendment rights here in the State of Maine, and it’s been that for for a long time,” Brakey explained in relation to Newsom’s claim that Republicans were responsible for gun control bills not passing through the Legislature.
Sen. Brakey, like the other Republican lawmakers, also told the Maine Wire that he does not think it is the right time to speculate about certain elements of Maine’s gun laws that may have failed in relation to the shooting, or the suspect’s background.
“There are a lot of questions to ask, but again, my aim is not to speculate — I don’t know these things. Once the dust settles, we can start gathering these facts,” Brakey said.
Rep. Laurel Libby, a Republican who represents Lewiston’s twin city Auburn, said Thursday that “no one expects a tragedy of this magnitude to happen in ‘their’ town, or the town next door, and the loss our state is facing is unfathomable.”
“Mainers are incredibly strong people, however, and we will get through this time of crisis with courage and unity,” Rep. Libby said. “We have already seen our community rallying together to support each other at this time of incomprehensible loss, and I know that same spirit will carry on.”
“Thank you to the incredible first responders and law enforcement who have dealt with horrendous realities most of us can not fathom, and continue to put themselves in harms way to bring resolution to this situation,” Libby continued. “Thank you also to our fellow Americans across the country who are holding our state in their prayers, we appreciate each and every one.”
As hundreds of law enforcement officers search the state for Robert Card, both Androscoggin and Northern Sagadahoc Counties remain under shelter in place orders, and businesses and schools across the state are in lockdown waiting for the suspect to be apprehended.