Maine’s relaxed gun laws under scrutiny as suspected Lewiston shooter’s past revealed

In Maine, where 18 people were killed and 13 others were injured during a mass shooting on Wednesday, residents can obtain a firearm without undergoing a background check or waiting period and there are no “red flag” laws in place.

The state, which possesses some extremely relaxed gun laws, is the site of the deadliest mass shooting to occur in the US so far this year.

The suspected gunman, who police have named as 40-year-old Robert Card, entered a bowling alley and then a local restaurant seemingly armed with an AR-15-style rifle to carry out the shooting.

In Maine, anyone 21 or older can conceal carry a handgun without a permit or prior firearm training – people 18 or older can do so if a person is on active duty or honorably discharged from the Armed Forces.

Additionally, the state does not outlaw the possession of semiautomatic weapons.

Law enforcement is currently searching for the suspected gunman who is an Army Reservist said to have been struggling with his mental health.

Katie Card, the sister-in-law of the suspected shooter, told The Daily Beast that he is “quiet but the most loving, hardworking, and kind person” however he “had an acute episode of mental health” in the last year.

Ms Card said her brother-in-law believed people were talking badly about him at the bowling alley and restaurant where he is accused of conducting the shooting.

Over the summer, the suspected gunman sought help at a mental health facility.

Robert Card is said to have been suffering with his mental health (AP)
Robert Card is said to have been suffering with his mental health (AP)

Following the shooting, law enforcement received a bulletin that said the suspected gunman had been “hearing voices” and threatened to “shoot up” a military base, The Associated Press reported. 

Maine does not require federal background checks so long as the firearm is purchased at a gun show or through an advertisement.

The state also does not have a red flag law in place that would prevent a person who could present a danger to themselves or others from purchasing the gun.

Instead, Maine has “yellow flag” laws that allow the relatives of a person who may be suffering a mental health crisis to call law enforcement and seek a temporary order restricting that person from accessing firearms.

However, the law also requires the person to be taken into temporary police custody until a medical evaluation can be completed. Only those who have been involuntarily committed to a hospital because they posed a danger to themselves or others are prohibited from owning firearms.

Everytown, a gun violence prevention organisation, said the state is “missing key foundational gun laws.”

The Maine Gun Safety Coalition said the shooting was a result of the state’s weak gun laws and called on elected officials to “stop bowing to the gun lobby.”

“At a minimum, the Maine Gun Safety Coalition believes an assault weapons ban is necessary to try and prevent more tragedies in our state,” the organisation said in a statement.

The ease at which a person in Maine can obtain a firearm is a point of concern in the state where suicide ranks number 10 in its leading causes of death.