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Report: Suspected Maine gunman sought silencer months before shootings

Among the sadness are some feelings of confusion and frustration within the community over why no one intervened before the shootings took place.
Report: Suspected Maine gunman sought silencer months before shootings
Posted at 8:02 PM, Oct 29, 2023

New details are continuing to emerge about the gunman behind this year's deadliest mass shooting.

The gunman responsible for the tragic shootings that claimed the lives of 18 people in Lewiston, Maine, repeatedly attempted to purchase a rifle silencer at a local gun store nearly three months before the Wednesday massacre, according to ABC News. During these attempts, the gunman openly shared details of his mental health concerns with the gun shop owner.

Another vigil took place inside a church in Lewiston on Sunday, which was another opportunity for the community to come together and grieve the loss of their neighbors. But among the sadness are some feelings of confusion and frustration over why no one intervened before the shootings took place.

You can find tributes to the 18 victims of Wednesday’s mass shootings dotted all around the town. Between the memorials and vigils this weekend, residents made it clear that the victims, ranging in age from 14 to 76, would not be forgotten.

“There’s a sense of relief and sense of safety, but it doesn’t take away from the hole in our community,” said Angela Turgeon, a resident of Maine and friend of victim Tricia Asselin.

As time ticks on from the chaos and tragedy of the massacre that turned into a manhunt, questions arise about how the gunman, a man known to be suffering from mental illness and hearing voices, was able to carry out such a heinous act without any agency intervening.

“When someone's getting to the state of crisis management, you need to do something right away, and that wasn't done for him,” said Garrett Fisk.

It was only last month when Maine authorities were tipped off about the gunman—the firearms instructor and former Army reservist—regarding veiled threats he was making about carrying out a mass shooting. A statewide alert was made, and officers even patrolled outside his home, but contact with him was never made.

SEE MORE: Community gathers for vigil to honor Maine shooting victims

“You would want to take away the gun from somebody that had a mental health issue, period, just across the board when it was reported that he was making threats to family members and saying things to other extended people,” said Fisk.

In August, the gunman attempted to buy a silencer attachment for a gun at a local gun shop, but since he answered yes to having been previously committed to a mental hospital, he was denied the sale.

With Maine’s "yellow flag" law, his personal weapons could have been taken from him if he was involuntarily committed to a mental institution, but since he went on his own volition, the state couldn’t take his guns.

“There were enough warning signs by enough individuals where, yes, in my professional opinion, I believe someone somewhere should have done something,” said Sunny Slaughter, a law enforcement and litigation expert.

Slaughter has been following the case in Maine closely. She says there’s a lot of confusion in the public around red and yellow flag laws, as they're different in every state, but in this case, she believes more could have been done to protect others from the gunman and himself.

“They had no probable cause, so law enforcement must have probable cause, but the probable cause must begin with all of the people who knew something may have said something,” said Slaughter.

But then the ball got dropped somewhere in between.

With the focus now on what went wrong, Slaughter says we could see this tragedy as a motivating factor to consider stricter laws when it comes to who can safely have a gun in their possession.

“The public outcry, the public pain, and the public rage around this issue, around red flag laws and securing, um, the way in which people gain access, it's going to be pivotal," said Slaughter.

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