The perpetrators of the shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, California, in January; at a Nashville elementary school in March; and at a shopping center in Allen, Texas, in May he had made prior threats, been violent, alarmed family members or signaled his intentions online. In two other attacks, in Oklahoma and Utah, in which the perpetrators killed people associated with them, there had been prior criminal charges or allegations of abuse.
Why all the warnings about the Maine gunman didn’t stop the massacre
In each of those shootings, at least six people were killed. Signs of distress have also preceded other high-profile killings that were not among the deadliest attacks of the year, including those at Michigan State University in February and a Louisville bank in April.
«Very rarely do we see someone commit a mass shooting without warning signs,» said Lisa Geller, senior adviser at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions.
Eighty-one people were killed and 32 wounded in the 10 deadliest shootings of the year through Nov. 1. The Post’s count is based on a database maintained by USA Today, the Associated Press and Northeastern University. The Post defines a mass murder as an event in which four or more people, not including the perpetrator, are killed by gunshots.
Coworkers knew he was struggling. They didn’t expect him to buy an AR-15.
In Maine, several warnings about the gunman, Robert Card, came to authorities in the months before the Oct. 25 murders in Lewiston, but no system existed that would have allowed police to quickly take away his access to guns.
The case has renewed questions about how to prevent mass killings and how to reach people before they commit violence. It has also drawn attention to red flag laws, which aim to help families and police respond to perceived warning signs, and their implementation.
«A very high proportion of mass shooters reveal their intentions beforehand,» said Jaclyn Schildkraut, executive director of the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium at the Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, New York. «What that does is create opportunities… for intervention and de-escalation.»
Whether states have ways for that intervention to happen and whether ordinary people know how to request it become key questions, gun violence researchers say.
In most cases this year, perpetrators lived in states without mechanisms that could have temporarily restricted their access to firearms. In California, red flag laws existed, but they were not used. Maine does not have such a law, and its “yellow flag” law, which imposes stricter requirements for firearms theft, was not used in the Lewiston case.
Red flag laws, which exist in 21 states and D.C., generally allow family members or police to temporarily remove firearms, through a court order process, from someone who has been determined to pose a danger to themselves or themselves. for others. Many lawmakers and advocates who support gun regulations have pushed for laws, also called extreme risk protective order laws, in the wake of the mass killings.
«The reason people are really seeking extreme risk protective orders is because the means to carry out the plan is being eliminated,» Schildkraut said.
Gun rights advocates have long opposed red flag laws and other gun control measures, arguing that they infringe on Americans’ freedoms and often rejecting the idea that focusing on gun access firearms is the way to prevent armed violence. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) echoed that argument after the shooting in Maine last week, saying society should address “the underlying issue” of mental health.
«At the end of the day, the problem is the human heart,» he told News21USA News host Sean Hannity. “They are not weapons. «It’s not the weapons.»
Gun violence researchers argue that focusing on mental health diagnoses could lead to ignoring other behaviors that could serve as a warning sign. Mental health advocates also oppose stigmatizing mental illness.
«Dangerous behaviors are not necessarily a mental illness or a mental health diagnosis,» Geller said. «If we limit the scope of our actions to mental health alone, we are going to miss the vast majority of gun violence.»
Some data indicates that red flag laws have likely saved lives, particularly by preventing suicides, said Josh Horwitz, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions. A 2022 study from the University of California, Davis found that California’s gun violence restraining order law had taken firearms away from people threatening mass shootings in 58 cases over three years.
However, an analysis this year by the Associated Press found that the laws are rarely used in many states, largely because the public is not aware of them and some authorities are reluctant to use them.
Gun violence investigators He told The Post that more public education by government agencies about the laws is needed to make their use more common, noting that policies are only effective when they are used.
«Most people don’t even know how they would file a motion to start one of these proceedings,» said Adam Winkler, a law professor and gun violence expert at the University of California, Los Angeles. «People need to know that these laws exist, but also how to use them, how to activate them and make sure that someone who is a danger to themselves and others is investigated.»
In the wake of the Louisville shooting, which killed five people and injured eight, some who knew the gunman told The Post they were frustrated that someone with mental health issues had so easily obtained an assault weapon. In Michigan, where no red flag law existed when the attack at Michigan State killed three people and injured five, lawmakers responded by creating one.
After the gunman killed 11 people in Monterey Park, lawmakers said the case had exposed gaps in communities’ knowledge about California’s red flag law, even among residents who speak languages other than English. In July, lawmakers introduced legislation in Congress to increase public education about red flag laws, including in multiple languages.
There are other challenges in trying to prevent violence before it occurs or predict when it might occur, including the fact that people may not recognize someone’s behavior as a warning sign, the researchers said. «It’s not a reasonable goal» to expect red flag laws to prevent all mass shootings, Winkler said, but they are important in «a set of policies we can have to reduce gun violence.»
Still, gun violence researchers said what happened in Maine was an argument for red flag laws and other regulations that can help prevent someone in crisis or with a documented criminal or abusive history from purchasing a firearm.
“[If] If you are worried about someone, take it seriously because you often witness warning signs when there is availability to help someone, before a tragedy occurs,” Horwitz said. «The tragic thing in Maine is that people took it seriously and didn’t have the tools to do the job.»