Gun Shop Owner: Maine Suspect Triggered 'Yellow Flag'

Robert Card reportedly tried to buy silencer months earlier, was rejected due to one answer on form
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2023 8:21 AM CDT
Gun Shop Owner: Maine Suspect Tried to Buy Silencer
A man walks past a makeshift memorial at the base of the Lewiston sign at Veterans Memorial Park on Sunday in Lewiston, Maine.   (AP Photo/Matt York)

The man suspected of killing 18 and injuring 13 in a mass shooting last week in Lewiston, Maine, apparently tried to buy a silencer at a local gun shop almost three months before the massacre. Rick LaChapelle, owner of Coastal Defense Firearms in nearby Auburn, tells ABC News that Robert Card had purchased the silencer online, then showed up in person to pick it up at a nearby dealer, which in this case was Coastal Defense. There was still some paperwork to complete, however, and one box that Card checked off sent up an alert among staffers: He marked "yes" to the question, "Have you ever been adjudicated as a mental defective or have you ever been committed to a mental institution?"

Although Maine is known for having lax firearms laws—there's no regulation on assault weapons, and no permit is required to carry concealed weapons—Card's affirmative answer to that question triggered the state's "yellow flag" law, which bars anyone going through a mental health crisis from possessing a gun. According to a law enforcement bulletin, Card had been "committed to [a] mental health facility for two weeks during summer 2023 and released." Maine Public Safety Commissioner Mike Sauschuck says investigators haven't found any evidence that Card was "forcibly committed." At a Saturday presser, an ATF official noted that all recovered weapons from Wednesday's shootings appeared to have been purchased legally by Card.

LaChapelle says Card was "very cordial, very polite" when he was informed he couldn't buy the silencer, told staff that he'd clarify what was going on with his attorney, and noted, per the New York Times, "I'll just come back and get it later on." LaChapelle says Card never showed up at the shop again. The store owner adds that if Card had successfully purchased the silencer, the people in the venues that were attacked may not have heard gunshots rights away, nor would the plainclothes officers who happened to be training nearby. "Can you imagine what would've happened if he had the silencer on that gun?" LaChapelle said, per WMTW. "They would have never heard the noise." (More Maine mass shooting stories.)

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