Maine's yellow flag law invoked more than a dozen times after deadly shootings

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — A Maine law used to restrict access to guns during a mental health crisis has been invoked more than a dozen times since the killings of 18 people last month, and several people whose guns were temporarily removed referenced the name of the gunman responsible for the mass shooting.

An updated list from the state shows weapons restriction orders were imposed at least 13 times under the yellow flag law since the Oct. 25 mass shootings in Lewiston, the deadliest in state history. That brings the total to 94 times since the law went into effect in July 2020.

Four people either mentioned Lewiston gunman Robert Card’s name or said they would become the “next mass shooter,” according to the state’s list, which includes a brief synopsis of the circumstances in each case. On Friday, the law was invoked five times that day, according to the list.

The updated figures were released Monday during a law enforcement training that focused on the yellow flag law, Shannon Moss, state police spokesperson, said Tuesday. Several hundred officers participated in the training.

Eighteen people were killed and another 13 wounded when Card, an Army reservist, opened fire at a bowling alley and a bar.

Tens of thousands of residents were ordered to shelter at home as hundreds of law officers participated in a manhunt that ended with the discovery of Card’s body two days later in nearby Lisbon. An autopsy concluded he died by suicide.

Under Maine’s yellow flag law, a warning to police can trigger a process where an officer visits an individual and makes a judgment call on whether that person should be placed in temporary protective custody, triggering assessments that with a judge’s approval can lead to a 14-day weapons restriction. A full court hearing could lead to an extension of restrictions for up to a year.

Police had received warnings about Card. Some family members and fellow reservists were concerned about his mental health and access to weapons. One reservist wrote in a text: “I believe he’s going to snap and do a mass shooting.”

Deputies visited Card’s home in Bowdoin twice about a month before the mass shootings, but he didn’t come to the door. The sheriff said law enforcement didn’t have the legal authority to knock down the door.

It’s unclear what happened after that, though the sheriff’s office canceled its statewide alert seeking help locating Card a week before the deadly rampage.