FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 8/5/2019
(Augusta, Maine) Along with the rest of the nation, our prayers and sympathies are with all of those affected by the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio this past weekend. We all grieve together over the needless loss of friends and neighbors.
In that grief, the search for solutions becomes our priority, and lawmakers and law enforcement across the country today are searching for answers.
What we know, according to a 2018 FBI study, is that the one common component in virtually every mass shooting is the mental health of the shooter. Many privacy and other laws, however, make it difficult for local law enforcement to address this key component of gun violence until it is too late.
A new law in here Maine, sponsored by Republican State Senator Lisa Keim and overwhelmingly supported by the state legislature in June, might well have prevented the shooting in Dayton, Ohio and could also have addressed the root cause of the shooting in El Paso, Texas.
Maine’s new “Yellow-Paper” law addresses the mental health aspect of mass shootings by allowing law enforcement to temporarily restrict access to firearms by people who pose a serious risk to themselves or others, and also by connecting those people to the care of mental health professionals, even to the extent of protective custody, if necessary, and with the approval of a judge.
Senator Keim’s bill was enacted by the Democrat-controlled legislature on June 20, 2019 and signed into law by the Democratic Governor the same day.
Several years ago Conner Betts, identified as the Dayton, Ohio shooter, was under police investigation and suspended from his high school when he created a “hit list” and a “rape list” of other students. Police notified the students on each list that they were listed, but Betts was eventually freed and returned to the school.
Had Senator Keim’s law been in place in Ohio at that time, police could have directed Betts into a protocol of mental health evaluation and care, while confiscating any weapons he had and prohibiting him from possessing any until mental health professionals had removed the restriction.
Even if it turns out that Betts obtained the weapon he used last week illegally, the law could have at least placed him into the care of mental health professionals years earlier, possibly preventing his actions by addressing the root cause of his violent behavior.
Many news reports say that both Betts and Patrick Crusius, the shooter in El Paso, Texas, were loners in school and victims of ridicule and bullying. They each exhibited mental health issues and expressed violent thoughts or tendencies. While Crusius is not believed to have had contact with local law enforcement in the Dallas area where he lived, the new Maine law would have allowed family, neighbors, and acquaintances to report their concerns, and required school resource officers to direct him into mental health care years ago. This might very well have prevented that shooting as well.
Sen. Lisa Keim: “The ‘yellow paper’ law was the result of extensive research and a thoughtful collaboration of stakeholders such as mental health professionals, law enforcement, gun rights and gun control advocates, legislators, the governor, and public input. Its passage means that Maine is focusing efforts on the root cause of mass shootings, and taking positive, reasonable steps to prevent them. However, the true effectiveness of this law relies on two entities; diligent community members taking an active role in reporting, and enough capacity in Maine’s mental health system to address the need.”
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Contact: Tom Desjardin, Communications Director, Maine Senate Republicans – 207-416-2230