The invisible shield that has always protected the people of Maine from the insanity of modern American life has been pierced by the semi-automatic gunfire of a schizophrenic, military-trained monster.
One of our own, a man who for two decades was a protector in the U.S. Army Reserves, has visited incomprehensible and inhuman violence upon places known for joy, and people known for love.
For years, Mainers have looked aghast at acts of domestic terrorism elsewhere and comforted ourselves with the thought that Maine is different, safer, that kind of thing doesn’t happen here.
But now, sadly, our eighteen murdered friends and neighbors have become a wakeup call that our home is not immune from such brutal evil. What are we to do?
The inclination to think that some yet-unpassed law would have stopped this evil is understandable. We’ve already seen plenty of crass and self-serving statements from politicians who say the solution is to reduce or diminish the rights of all Mainers.
Mere weeks after the terrorism in Israel provided a vivid reminder that yes, in fact, there is a good reason why law abiding citizens would want to own so-called assault rifles with large capacity magazines, some politicians have concluded that those tools are the real problem.
This renewed cry for a purported policy panacea comes just a few years after Maine adopted legislation that even the left-wing Maine Public described as a “potential national model for keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous or suicidal individuals.”
So what happened? How did we adopt legislation heralded by gun control advocates only to find ourselves reeling in the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in Maine history?
The answer seems to be that the vaunted new law — the Yellow Flag Law — wasn’t used.
That’s confusing, because Robert Card is precisely the type of person you would expect to see such a law used against.
Under Maine’s yellow flag law, police officers who determine that an individual is a threat to himself or others can temporarily remove firearms from the custody of that individual.
This is entirely relevant to Card’s situation because law enforcement knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, that Card was a threat to society.
Hours after the shooting, the information arm of the Maine State Police released a memo that revealed Card was known to Maine law enforcement as a threat.
The information in that memo stemmed from a July incident in which Card showed signs of potentially violent schizophrenia.
Card’s behavior was so alarming that Army brass at West Point, where the Army reservist was for training, had him sent to the Keller Army Community Hospital, where he was sectioned at a military psychiatric ward for two weeks.
That’s a long stint in a padded room — a stint Card apparently earned by claiming that he was hearing voices in his head telling him to attack a military facility in Saco.
Is there any clearer case of when the yellow flag law ought to have been used?
Yet no attempt was made to ensure Card had no access to tools that can equally be used for protection or evil, depending on their operator’s state of mind.
So the key questions seem to be: Why was Card released from Keller after two weeks? What details of that episode were transmitted to Maine law enforcement? When? To whom? Why was nothing done?
We know that the Maine State Police knew about Card’s instability and threats of violence, so who made the decision not to use Maine’s vaunted gun control law? And did they make that decision to protect a friend’s military career?