A history of mental illness. An array of weapons. Law enforcement knew about Robert Card's potential for violence. He still was able to own guns and commit Maine's deadliest mass shooting. One week later, many in Lewiston and nationwide are asking: Why did he have guns at all? Card was identified by authorities as a person of interest soon after he shot and killed 18 people and wounded 13 others at a bowling alley and a bar in Maine’s second-largest city. Card, who was found dead two days after his rampage, had been well known to law enforcement for months, reports the Associated Press. “This is the clearest-cut case I’ve seen where an extreme risk protection order could have saved all these lives,” said Mark Collins of the gun-violence prevention group Brady, referring to measures often called “red flag" laws, which Maine does not have. “This guy did everything short of taking out a front-page ad in the newspaper saying he was going to commit an atrocity,” Collins said.
The scrutiny over Card’s access to firearms underscores the difficulty in seizing guns from potentially dangerous people with mental illness — especially when several jurisdictions are involved, as was the case with Card. The U.S. Army reservist spent time in a psychiatric facility in New York this summer and he blamed fellow military officials for his hospitalization. A member of his unit got a call from a friend of Card’s who was concerned Card was “going to snap and commit a mass shooting.” Card threatened to shoot up the Army reserve drill center in Saco, Me., and other places, and said that he was going to get “them.” There was nothing on Card’s record before the shooting that would have kept him from passing a federal background check to buy a gun, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Card and other members of the Army Reserve’s 3rd Battalion, 304th Infantry Unit were in New York for training on July 15 when he accused several of them of calling him a pedophile, shoved one of them and locked himself in his motel room. After Card left the psychiatric facility in early August, the Army directed that while on duty, he shouldn’t be allowed to have a weapon, handle ammunition or participate in live-fire activity.