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Maine Mass Shooting Revives Debates Over Guns, Mental Health

Updated: Oct 28, 2023


In Maine, “guns are a fact of life,” the Trace reported. “Nearly half of all households own one, mostly for hunting and recreation, sometimes for self-defense.” Gun laws are lax, with no background checks on private sales and no need for permits or training to carry a concealed gun in public. Yet, because of its low gun-violence rates, there’s been little reason to push for tighter regulation.

Then came the mass shooting in Lewiston, pop. 35,000, where 18 people died at a bowling alley and a bar. “Now, residents and lawmakers in Maine are grappling with the fact that their corner of the country isn’t immune to such tragedies after all,” the Trace concluded.

Indeed, in the wake of the shooting, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a centrist Democrat from Maine, called for a ban on assault weapons, reversing a long-held stance. Golden, a Marine Corps veteran, has consistently broken with his party to oppose legislation that would reinstate the lapsed ban on assault weapons. Last July, Golden was one of just five Democrats to oppose such a measure, which has failed to secure enough Republican votes in the Senate.

Still, it is all but guaranteed that a divided Congress will not move on any gun legislation, The New York Times wrote, given “deeply entrenched conservative opposition to any measure that could be perceived as an infringement of the Second Amendment.” In 2022, a compromise law — which expanded the background check process, put aside millions of federal funds toward mental health and the implementation of so-called red-flag laws, among other changes — fell short of the sprawling changes Democrats have demanded. But only 29 Republicans — 15 in the Senate and 14 in the House, many of them since retired or defeated — voted in favor of that bill.

At the state level, a law was enacted but scarcely used, it seems, according to the AP. Barely four years before the deadly night in Lewiston, Maine’s governor had signed a law aimed at preventing a mass shooting like the one Wednesday night that claimed at least 18 lives.

As has often been the case in mass shootings, the suspected shooter, Robert R. Card, had a history of mental-health concerns, the Washington Post reported. Over the summer, his Army Reserve Commanders “became so concerned by statements he made targeting his own unit that he was sent to a hospital,” where he received about two weeks of inpatient psychiatric treatment.

Card was found dead on Friday night of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound near the site where he had left his car on the night of the shooting.

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