Latest mass shooting should have been preventable

It’s not a stretch to say that the deadliest shooting in the United States this year was also one of the most preventable in the country’s long history of these catastrophic events. Unfortunately, this does not come as a surprise to those who have become all too familiar with the decades-long string of mass shootings in this country.

Long before Robert Card opened fire at the Just-in-Time Bowling Alley and at Schemengees Bar & Grille Restaurant, the former U.S. Army Reserve member had a notable history that included being reported for “erratic behavior” and was admitted to a hospital for evaluation. Card had also made previous threats to open fire on a military base in Saco, Maine, as well as other places.

Throughout the time Card’s mental health issues came into question, the 40-year-old had also claimed to have possession of multiple firearms. Card’s behavior was reported by multiple people close to him, including family members, to the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office. 

This was in accordance with Maine’s “yellow flag” law, which leaves it up to local law enforcement to determine what to do with reports of gun owners suspected of immediate threats. Officials at the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office never acted on the reports, letting Card continue down the path that led to the deaths of 18 people.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said in response to this information that “on the basis of the facts that we have, [the yellow flag law] should have been triggered… If, in fact, the suspect was hospitalized for two weeks for mental illness, that should have triggered the yellow flag law and he should have been separated from his weapons.” 

So why didn’t anything happen? Every possible sign one could envision for a mass shooting of this size was visible from the moon, even to the point where Card was verbally telling people he was planning a shooting. Despite all of the information in the hands of both local law enforcement and the U.S. Army, zero preventative measures were taken, and perhaps the most concerning part of this is that under current legislation, nothing more could have been done.

The people close to Card did the right thing by reporting his behavior to local law enforcement. The U.S. Army Reserve acted by admitting him to the hospital for a medical evaluation over the summer. Officials at the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office didn’t legally have to act on the reports they received in accordance with the law. In fact, the county office has not once acted out the state’s yellow flag law.

Perhaps a better question than what could have been done is what should have been done to prevent the shooting? This goes beyond the easy answer of saying that Card should have been marked down in the yellow flag law or that he shouldn’t have been allowed to own guns — nor does this answer have anything to do with the current mental health status and system in the country.

The direct blame for the situation falls on the lawmakers who allowed Card to murder 18 people last month. There is no logical reason Card’s status should have been left up to local law enforcement, and the fact that it was is a systemic failure. This is the same systemic failure that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people this year alone and thousands of people over the last several decades.

Until more is done at the federal level to prevent these sorts of events, America is playing a waiting game to find out where the next mass shooting will take place. Unfortunately, it seems that is a game our current lawmakers are willing to play at the risk of the lives of millions of people.


Featured photo courtesy of Just In Time Recreation, Facebook