The massacre in Maine also underscored the insanity of letting anyone with severe mental illness own any firearm. The Lewiston killer, paranoid and hearing voices, was mentally ill enough to be hospitalized during the summer. And less than two weeks after he legally bought a high-powered rifle, he had run-ins with New York State police and his National Guard superiors.
Maine might have seen a stadium of waving red flags regarding this sick man if it had red flag laws. But it doesn’t.
Many New Englanders harbor the delusion that these shootings are mainly a problem to their south and west, in places like Texas, Florida or Colorado. But of course, one of the most horrific school shootings took place in Newtown, a leafy Connecticut town where a mentally ill local kid shot dead 26 at an elementary school. And shocking as that event was, it was not enough to bring about a national ban on assault rifles.
Efforts to limit who may buy them are doomed to fail. The 20-year-old Newtown killer simply picked up his mother’s assault weapon plus 10 magazines with 30 rounds each.
Maine’s two senators, Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King, won’t go the distance to backing a ban on military-style weapons. They’ve even supported an amendment to a spending bill that would forbid the Department of Veterans Affairs from automatically alerting the federal firearms background check system if a veteran is mentally unable to manage their benefits.
One would like to think that Golden has seen the light and is not proposing tighter gun laws only because his own community is in mass mourning. Whatever the reason, he is now in the right place.
No one who is not in the military or law enforcement should possess a military-style weapon. No one who has been deemed severely mentally ill should own firearms. Those reforms shouldn’t be so hard to support, including in gun country.