During a Saturday morning press conference, Maine Commissioner of Public Safety Mike Sauschuck clarified that the suspect in the Maine shooting, Robert Card, was never involuntarily committed for mental health issues, which meant he was not barred from passing a firearm background check.
This development raised questions about Maine’s yellow flag law, as police had taken Card for an evaluation at a hospital while he was at West Point in mid-July 2023.
Two key questions emerged: 1) Did Card’s mental evaluation at a West Point hospital not meet the criteria for involuntary commitment? or 2) Was there a failure in reporting any involuntary commitment to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to prevent the passage of a background check?
Sauschuck clarified that undergoing an evaluation is not equivalent to being involuntarily committed. He explained that voluntary treatment for mental health issues does not qualify as an involuntary commitment, which is very specific to treatment.
Regarding Card’s case, Sauschuck stated, “I have not seen to this point that Mr. Card was forcibly committed for treatment. And if that didn’t happen, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check, when conducted by a firearms dealer, would not flag this individual as prohibited.”
Sauschuck emphasized that having a mental health diagnosis does not inherently make someone a danger to society, highlighting that “the vast, vast, vast majority of people with a mental health diagnosis will never hurt anybody.”
During the briefing, Sauschuck also revealed that authorities had twice cleared the Maine Recycling Corporation location where Card’s body was later discovered. Card’s body was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a trailer after a Maine State Police tactical team searched an overflow lot at the plant’s owner’s recommendation.
Card had worked at the recycling corporation as a commercial driver for approximately a year and left voluntarily in late spring. Authorities suggested that Card was likely familiar with the area.
A long gun was found in Card’s vehicle, but officials did not specify the make and model. It was the only firearm discovered in the car.
Sauschuck reported that investigators had received 821 tips and leads from the public. A note for a loved one was discovered in Card’s residence, containing phone passcodes and bank account numbers. Investigators are working on accessing his phone and bank information through search warrants.
Sauschuck noted that Card’s family had been highly cooperative. The first three individuals who positively identified the gunman based on released photos were believed to be family members.
Regarding speculation about Card’s mental health, Sauschuck stressed that “the vast majority of people with a mental health diagnosis will never hurt anybody. They won’t hurt themselves. They’re not a danger to the community.” While acknowledging the potential role of mental health, he emphasized that further research was needed.