Maine gunman was blocked from buying silencer months before shooting

Maine shooting gunman Robert Card was blocked from buying a silencer for his rifle three months before his violent rampage, according to reports.

Card was prevented from buying the sound suppressor at a local firearms store after he revealed he was in a mental health facility, the owner of the store told ABC News.

“He came in and filled out the form, he checked off a box that incriminated himself saying that he was in an institution,” Rick LaChapelle, owner of Coastal Defense Firearms, said. “Our staff was fantastic, let him finish filling out the form, and said, ‘I’m sorry, Mr Card, we cannot give you this… at this point in time, we cannot release this silencer to you because of the answers that you’ve given us.”

He said Card bought the silencer online and was set to pick it up from Coastal Defense, one of the largest gun stores in the region but was prevented from doing so after answering “yes” to the question “Have you ever been adjudicated as a mental defective or have you ever been committed to a mental institution?”

Mr LaChapelle said Card was “very cooperative” when staff told him he could not buy the silencer.

Shortly before 7pm on Wednesday, Card entered the Just-In-Time bowling alley in Lewiston with an assault-style rifle and killed seven people. He then went to Schemengees Bar & Grille Restaurant four miles away, where he killed eight people. Three more people later died in hospital, while 13 were injured in the attack.

Mr LaChapelle said he believes Card’s rampage, in which 18 people were killed, might have been more deadly if he had been allowed to buy the silencer.

He added that if Card had a silencer, people might not have heard the gunshots and “he could have spent more time in each location,”

“We did what we were supposed to do and hopefully saved a lot of lives by following the proper procedures,” he said.

Maine shooting gunman Robert Card was blocked from buying a silencer for his rifle three months before his violent rampage (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Maine shooting gunman Robert Card was blocked from buying a silencer for his rifle three months before his violent rampage (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The rampage is the worst mass shooting in America this year and sparked a regionwide manhunt after Card fled following the shootings. Law enforcement looked for Card for days, until they eventually found his body on Friday evening in a box trailer. He appeared to have died by suicide.

The shooting has also raised questions about existing gun safety laws in the US after Card, an army reservist, was able to have a firearm after being committed to a mental health facility for 14 weeks in July, three months before the shooting.

Card was committed to the institution after acting erratically and “hearing voices and threats to shoot up” a military base, The Associated Press previously reported.

However, officials at Saturday’s press conference said they hadn’t come across a record showing that Card had been forcibly committed for treatment.

Following his release, police were asked to conduct a welfare check on Card in September after he was accused of punching a fellow soldier.

A statewide awareness alert was issued asking every law enforcement agency in the state to watch for Card – but police were unable to locate him.

The Sagadahoc County sergeant later learned that the soldier raised concerns that Card would “snap and commit a mass shooting”.

People sign
People sign "I love you" at a vigil for the victims of Wednesday's mass shootings, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, outside the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston, Maine (AP)

A file 6 missing person’s report was filed by the responding officer, before the case was closed on 1 October, CNN reported.

Chief Clements defended his department’s response to the alert about Card, which he described as a “generic thing that came out saying, hey, you know, we’ve had some report that this guy’s made some veiled threats”.

He also added that such alerts are not uncommon, and while he said his team did their due diligence and looked for Card, they never came across him.

“Never came in contact with this guy, never received any phone calls from the reserve centre saying, ‘Hey, we got somebody who was causing a problem,’” he said. “We never got anything.”

Jonathan Crisp, a former Army lawyer, told The Associated Press that when soldiers are committed involuntarily to mental health facilities, it is a “reportable” event under Army regulations, setting off a network of alerts and subsequent restrictions.

As it is supposed to work, he explained, an official notes the incident in a military database which alerts the FBI, so the agency can enter the name into a background list of people prevented from buying weapons.

“If they took him and he didn’t want to go and he refused to be admitted, it’s a slam dunk,” Mr Crisp said. “This should have been reported.”