Everybody Knows

Security forces take measures at the site where at least 18 people were killed and 13 injured in a mass shooting in Maine on October 26, 2023. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu/Getty Images)

A horrible massacre in Maine—who could have seen it coming?


The Army did. The Maine killer was a reservist whose behavior exhibited mental illness of a dangerous kind: He had assaulted friends and colleagues, gave voice to delusions of persecution, and had been remanded to a psychiatric hospital. The Army handed down its judgment, that he “should not have a weapon, handle ammunition, and not participate in live fire activity.” And then the Army washed its hands of the matter, save for being sure to point out that the killer did not have access to military-issued weapons at the time of his crime.  

The police saw it coming. They had been informed by one of the killer’s military colleagues that he seemed ready to “snap and commit a mass shooting.” Note the specificity of the threat identified—not some vague notion that the reservist was a danger to himself and others, but that he was going to do exactly what he ended up doing. Police visited his home and spoke with his family. Do you know what the police did? They got his brother to promise to try to secure any firearms that the mass shooter might use to pull off the mass shooting everybody expected him to commit. This raises some obvious questions, such as: Why do we have police? No doubt the killer’s brother meant well, but he is not a sworn law-enforcement officer with a badge and a gun and the ability to go to a judge to get a warrant. 

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