A long series of warnings about Robert Card, who would carry out this year’s deadliest mass killing, did nothing to prevent his attack, which killed 18 people in Lewiston, Me.,
At least seven of this year’s 10 deadliest mass killings were carried out by people who had exhibited some behavior that had concerned loved ones, acquaintances or law enforcement in the months or years before the shootings, according to a Washington Post analysis of news reports relying on police and witnesses.
Shooters in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, Calif., in January; at a Nashville school in March; and at a mall in Allen, Tex., in May had made previous threats, acted violently, alarmed family members or signaled their intentions online.
In each of those shootings, at least six people were killed. Signals of distress have preceded other high-profile killings that were not among the year’s deadliest attacks, including those at Michigan State University in February and a Louisville bank in April.
“Very rarely do we see someone commit a mass shooting where there were no warning signs,” said Lisa Geller of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions.
Eighty-one people had been killed and 32 injured in the year’s 10 deadliest shootings as of Nov. 1.
In Maine, multiple warnings about Card reached law enforcement in the months before the Oct. 25 killings in Lewiston, but no system was in place that would’ve allowed police quickly to remove his access to guns.
“A very high proportion of mass shooters leak their intentions in advance,” said Jaclyn Schildkraut of the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium at the Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, N.Y. “What that does is it creates opportunities … for intervention and de-escalation.”
In most cases this year, the perpetrators lived in states without mechanisms that could have temporarily restricted their access to firearms. In California, red-flag laws existed but weren’t used. Maine doesn’t have such a law, and its “yellow flag” law, which has a higher bar for firearm removal, wasn’t used in the Lewiston case.
Gun rights advocates oppose red-flag laws, arguing that they infringe on Americans’ freedoms, and often reject the idea that focusing on firearm access is the way to prevent gun violence. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) echoed that argument after the Maine shooting, saying society should address “the underlying problem” of mental health.