Once again, two major failings of our society have come together and created what is being called yet another “perfect storm.” Eighteen citizens of or visitors to the small town of Lewiston, Maine, were murdered as they went about their normal daily business, working and playing with friends and family.
What happened in Lewiston, Maine?
Eighteen lives ended and many others were damaged-shot down while bowling in a neighborhood bowling alley or while playing darts and shooting pool in a neighborhood bar & grill.
None of these victims were forest creatures shot for food. None were killed while trying to rob, rape or kill another being. None were threatening anyone with bodily harm. They were just people living their lives as best they knew how. Several of them are reported to have been murdered while trying to stop the massacre, with not much more of a weapon than their own personal courage and concern for others.
The alleged murderer carried a recently purchased Ruger SFAR (Small Frame Auto-loading Rifle), chambered for high-powered .308 ammunition often used by military snipers and big game hunters. He also had a well-documented recent history of mental issues.
What is known about the shooter?
Friday evening, as this post was being written, the alleged murderer, Robert Card, was reported to be dead, apparently of a self-inflicted wound.
Card enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2002 and had no combat deployments. In July, while training at the U.S. Military Academy in New York, leaders of the suspect’s unit reported that he was “behaving erratically,” according to a New York Army National Guard spokesperson. The New York State Police took the suspect to an Army hospital at West Point to be evaluated.
The shooter, himself, had recently reported mental health issues, including hearing voices, according to a Maine law enforcement bulletin. He had also threatened to shoot up the National Guard base in Saco, the bulletin said, and he was reported to have been committed to a mental health facility for two weeks this summer.
Ah, yes. The common two week treatment for mental illness, compliments of the practically non-existent mental health care system in the United States.
What is the toll of this event?
Untold hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars’ worth of time and money will have been spent to apprehend the murderer. Hordes of searchers belonging to dozens of “official” organizations that deal with these events knocked on doors, searched untold acres of land, river and sea. Millions of dollars will likely be spent on medical care for the injured, counseling for the survivors and funerals for the dead.
Citizens of local communities were told to “shelter in place,” a frightening order becoming increasingly common across the U.S. Several area schools and businesses were closed. Fearful locals checked basements, garages, carports and storage rooms daily to make sure nothing was amiss in their own homes, that no fugitive murderer was hiding in their personal space.
It is impossible to gauge the full toll of this event on all those affected by it.
Was this really a perfect storm?
Another perfectly horrible “perfect storm,” we hear. But, was it really?
The dictionary defines a “perfect storm” as: a particularly bad or critical state of affairs, arising from a number of negative and unpredictable factors. Mass killings in the United States can no longer be properly described in this manner. Perfect storms simply don’t occur on an almost-daily basis.
The continued protection of unfettered access to readily available assault weapons easily predicts negative outcomes. Lack of a suitable mental health care system easily predicts negative outcomes.
It does not require a crystal ball to spot the obvious problems brewing. One just needs to have no personal stake in continuing the problems’ existence, to be financially and morally unbeholden to those who profit from assault weapons and spend heavily to protect their profits.
What’s it going to take?
On a slightly positive note, Maine’s Democratic Senator Jared Golden has decided he no longer has a personal stake in protecting assault weapons. Having previously voted against the control of assault weapons, Golden has suddenly seen the light, saying: “The time has now come for me to take responsibility for this failure, which is why I now call on the United States Congress to ban assault rifles.” Golden also gave this apology: “To the people of Lewiston, my constituents throughout the 2nd District, to the families who lost loved ones, and to those who have been harmed, I ask for forgiveness and support as I seek to put an end to these terrible shootings.”
So, minds can be changed, and apologies could possibly lead to less easily obtained assault weapons and substantial investments in mental health care. It will take legislative action to solve this horrifying problem. Legislators must disentangle themselves from those who profit from assault weapons. It seems unlikely that this will happen unless citizens make it known that they expect it to happen.
So one big question remains unanswered: How many more of us will be killed before enough politicians have made Jared Golden apologies to their constituents?
Actually, “The time has now come for all of us to take responsibility in this failure.”