The state lawmaker whose hometown in Maine was torn apart by a gunman wielding a sniper rifle on Wednesday issued a stunning mea culpa on Thursday, apologizing for previously voting against an assault rifle ban and vowing to do everything possible to outlaw “weapons of war.”
“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 like the one used by the sick perpetrator of this mass killing,” said State Rep. Jared Golden, whose district includes Lewiston, where Army marksman Robert Card allegedly killed 18 people in a bowling alley and a nearby bar.
Golden conceded his prior opposition to gun control measures was based on several “misjudgments,” among them, his “fear of this dangerous world,” his determination to protect his wife and daughter in their home, and his “false confidence that our community was above this and that we could be in full control.”
He asked his constituents and the victims of Wednesday’s dual massacres for forgiveness. “At a time like this a leader is forced to grapple with things that are far greater than his or herself,” he said. “Humility is called for as accountability is sought.”
Card, a U.S. Army reservist, used a sniper rifle with .308 caliber bullets to unleash the carnage on Wednesday, officials told NBC News. Grainy photos released by cops, who were still hunting for Card on Thursday night, appeared to show a second magazine attached to his high-powered weapon.
He appears to have legally purchased the gun before he underwent two weeks of in-patient psychiatric treatment this summer, the officials told NBC. Card’s military commanders sent him to receive inpatient treatment on July 16 after he began “behaving erratically” while in training at the United States Military Academy, a spokesperson for the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs told The Daily Beast.
Around the same time, Card had an “acute episode of mental health,” his sister-in-law told The Daily Beast.
He had started insisting to family members that he could hear people attacking him—including at the Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley and Schemengees Bar and Grill, the sites of Wednesday’s twin shootings—through powerful hearing aids that he had recently started wearing to combat hearing loss.
Maine’s gun laws would not necessarily require Card’s firearms to be seized after his treatment.
Unlike some states’ so-called “red flag” laws, which prohibits people from owning guns if they are shown to pose a threat to themselves or others, Maine has a “yellow flag” gun law, which requires a medical professional to evaluate a person’s potential risk before police can ask a judge to remove the person’s firearms.
Gun safety advocates have warned that the Maine law, which was drafted with input from gun rights groups, is less effective than a red flag law.
A permit is not required to carry guns in public in Maine, a state that has a long history of firearm ownership and traditions of sport shooting and hunting.