Nearly three months before Robert R. Card II killed 18 people in Lewiston, Maine, a gun store refused to let him buy a gun silencer after he disclosed on a form that he suffered from mental health issues, the store owner said in an interview Sunday.
On Aug. 5, Mr. Card, 40, went to pick up a silencer at Coastal Defense Firearms in nearby Auburn, said Rick LaChapelle, the gun store owner. Mr. LaChapelle said Mr. Card purchased the silencer — a device that muffles gunshots, also known as a suppressor — at another store, and that store sent it to Coastal Defense Firearms for pickup.
The attempted purchase was one of the first indications that Mr Card admitted to having mental health problems. ABC News first reported when attempting to purchase.
Questions about Mr. Card’s mental health and his access to guns have been at the heart of the investigation into the mass shooting, in which Mr. Card killed 18 people and injured 13 others in a bowling and a bar.
During a recent visit to a National Guard training center outside Peekskill, N.Y., Mr. Card, an Army reservist, got into an altercation with officials and was then evaluated at a mental health facility, according to a senior law enforcement official. But Maine Public Safety Commissioner Michael J. Sauschuck said Saturday that he had no information to suggest that Mr. Card had ever been forcibly committed for mental health treatment. Mr. Sauschuck did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When Mr. Card attempted to retrieve the gun’s silencer, he admitted to having mental health issues on a Form 4473, Mr. LaChapelle said. Form 4473 is a federal document that must be completed and signed in order to collect firearms and firearm equipment like a silencer, and it is used to determine if someone can complete the purchase.
It is unclear whether he had indicated mental health issues in the past on other forms related to his gun purchases. Authorities said Mr. Card purchased his guns legally. This means that if he purchased them from a licensed dealer, he passed a background check, including whether he was mentally competent to own a firearm.
In a statement, the FBI said there was no information about Mr. Card in its background check system that would have prevented him from legally purchasing a gun.
On the Form 4473 that Mr. Card filled out in August, one of the questions was: “Have you ever been adjudicated as mentally defective OR have you ever been committed to a psychiatric institution? Mr. Card checked the box, indicating yes, according to Mr. LaChapelle, who is also a Lewiston city councilor.
Under federal law, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, two criteria prohibit people with mental health problems from purchasing or possessing firearms and firearms equipment as a silent.
The first is whether a court or other legal authority has determined that a person is “mentally defective.” Among these determining factors This involves knowing whether the person poses a danger to themselves or others due to mental health problems.
The second is whether a person has been “committed to a psychiatric institution”, meaning that they have been admitted at some point involuntarily by a court or other authoritative body due to mental illness or drug use. People who voluntarily go to a psychiatric facility for treatment do not fall under this definition.
Armory staff waited for Mr. Card to sign the document before refusing to give him the silencer. Mr. Card, in response, was “very cordial, very polite,” Mr. LaChapelle said.
“He said, ‘No problem. OK, let me have my lawyer look at it, and I’ll come back and get it later,'” Mr. LaChapelle added. “Then he left the store and never came back.”
In September, Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry sent an alert to all law enforcement agencies in Maine after learning that Mr. Card had made threats against the military base to which he was assigned, the sheriff said in an interview Saturday. It remains unclear whether other police departments saw the alert.
Serge F. Kovaleski And Nicolas Bogel-Burroughs reports contributed.