Losing Our American Minds

Like clockwork, another mass shooting, this time in Maine, has resulted in renewed calls for gun control. But new rules and regulations won’t solve the problem of fleeting sanity, which is what appears to have been behind this tragedy.

The culprit was a 40-year-old Army reservist named Robert Card who heard voices in his head. Police found him dead in a metal recycling trailer two nights after he killed 18 people in Lewiston. Card apparently took one more life: his own. 

“(Card) is dead. We know where he’s located,” said Maine Public Safety Commissioner Mike Sauschuck. “We can start working with our victims.” 

But Card’s death leaves behind many unanswered questions. The more we learn, the less sense it makes.

While his unit was training at West Point in July, Card’s command called the New York State Police because he had been acting erratically. According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, he made “threats to other members of his military unit.” 

Police said he heard voices and threatened to shoot up a base. 

Card was taken by state troopers to the Keller Army Community Hospital, where he received two weeks of mental health evaluation. Beyond that, though, it’s unclear what, if any, further law enforcement action was taken.

Shortly after his release, Card had another run-in with police. Well, almost. Law enforcement in Maine failed to locate Card when a statewide awareness alert was issued after he made “veiled threats.” 

Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry said his department received a tip from the Army Reserve in September. It’s unclear exactly what Card had threatened to do. “Military officials declined to comment further about Card,” the Associated Press reported, “specifically whether the threats relayed to the sheriff in September were new or the same ones Card had made during an Army reserve training exercise near West Point, New York, in July.”

Whatever he said was concerning enough for a deputy to visit Card’s home. When they couldn’t find him, an all-points bulletin was put out to every law enforcement agency in the state. 

The chief of police of Saco, where Card’s Army Reserve base is located, said they added extra patrols “for about two weeks,” but never found him. Sheriff Merry said he could not remember if there was any follow-up after that search for Card ended empty-handed. 

A few weeks later, he went on a killing spree. He managed to stay ahead of police then, too.

Card walked into a bowling alley after 6 p.m. and began indiscriminately firing at people. Some plainclothes officers were nearby and arrived at the scene minutes after the first 911 call. They missed him. He was already headed to a bar four miles away, where he once again shot people at random. Police arrived five minutes later. But Card was gone, leaving a trail of 18 dead and 13 wounded in his wake.

He spent the next two days running and hiding, until he took his own life with a gunshot to the head. Card left behind an apparent suicide note addressed to his son. An ATF agent said Card legally purchased “somewhat recently” all the guns recovered in the aftermath.

There have been different reports about Card’s background and criminal history. What we do know is that his family has lived in Maine for generations. They owned a sawmill and hundreds of acres of land in the Bowdoin area, a portion of which they donated to a local church. Rick Goddard, a neighbor, described Card as an avid gun enthusiast and low profile. 

The last time Goddard saw him, Card appeared “perfectly normal” while helping his father cut hay on their farm.

Card did not have any combat deployments under his belt. What made him snap? We will probably never know. But gun control feels a bit like putting a Band-Aid on a slit throat. The truth is America is becoming an open-air insane asylum. Something about modern life is driving people crazy and nobody really knows what to do about it, except prescribing medication, which seems like adding gasoline to the fire in many cases. The guards—local, state, and federal law enforcement—are increasingly incapable or even apathetic about it. That’s the impression you get when reviewing the responses to Card’s threats in September. 

Asked if there had been a follow-up effort to locate Card after initial attempts failed, Sheriff Merry said, “I don’t have any reports in front of me.”

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