Go back many years ago.  My phone rang at 4 a.m.  That was not good news, and I knew it.  Today, it would be no big deal because I would be on my third cup of coffee by then.  I answered and there was a female on the other end screaming and sobbing.  She knew me because she called me by name.  I finally made out that she had just been raped and stabbed.  That she was a close friend of mine would not make this case any easier, but it sure gives me a platform to discuss background checks and red flag laws that will hopefully curb mass murders with assault rifles.

The police arrived in short order and began tracking fresh tracks that left the house and entered a shed nearby.  Obviously, there was snow and this collar was easy.  I was the prosecutor assigned to the case and I do not know why I did not withdraw for any number of reasons.  Had it gone to trial, I would have withdrawn, but soon reports came in that assured that this case was not going to trial.

Although we did not have DNA back then, this case was a slam dunk for me.  The footprints in the snow, an unknown male hiding in the shed with blood of his and hers on him.  There was more but it doesn’t get any easier than that.  Unless of course — unless the defense is that of insanity.  The two shrinks agreed.  “The accused suffered from delusional disorder such that he could not control his conduct and did not know right from wrong.  That was the defendant’s shrink and my shrink.  The perfect case had now become perfectly horrible.

In retrospect on this and other mental illness, I always reasoned to myself that the fact that the accused ran and hid from the scene of the crime shows that he did know that he had done something awful — and if he knew after he had done it, he must have known it was bad before he did it.  No shrink has ever agreed.

At any rate I knew that prosecuting the case was impossible, so a plea was in order that would say he was “not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.”  As I explained to the victim, “the result was indefinite confinement to a mental institution and that was no practical difference than jail.”

I was going to be so wrong.

About 10 years later and I no longer being a DA, I was contacted from the State of Maine Department of Mental Health saying that they had determined that the rapist was sufficiently cured such that they wanted him to have unsupervised rights to go for walks off the premises.  Again, all mental health officials agreed.  I was out of the loop and gave it to the new DA.  He and I talked a bit, but there was nothing we could do.

On his first unsupervised walk he ran into a 12-year-old girl, herself out for a walk, and killed her.  Read my lips!  Never believe that background checks are going to work.  This guy was in the hands of the mental health system and they failed miserably!  He manipulated them, and don’t think anyone is going to flunk a background test and come crying to the police and give them all his guns.

Now let’s talk about domestic violence — usually but not always done by the man.

Our former governor believed that arraigning these accused by a judge would stop the accused from further attack.  Another pipe dream!  I watched a guy arraigned by a judge and she read him the riot act — who cares?  Unknown to anyone, he had vowed to kill his wife and kill himself.  Before nightfall that had been done and he had borrowed a gun from a friend who knew nothing about his arrest.

There is nothing we can do about that kind of killing.  Most won’t go through with it, but those that will wear no particular look and a judge nor anyone can tell.  When someone is willing to kill himself, incarceration means nothing.

Now for the run of mass killings.  This would help.

I have explained my thoughts on background checks.  They won’t work and I am afraid congressmen or the president will say, “there we did something.”

Before I go on, I am a hunter and have several guns.  I have hunted with a group of 10 guys for decades.  None of us belonged to the NRA nor ever paid any attention to it.  None of us hunted with semi-automatic rifles.  Just so you understand it, my definition of an automatic is a gun that will fire the magazine with a single pull of the trigger.  Pull the trigger and keep it down and the gun fires automatically.  As far as I know those guns are illegal to hunt with in Maine.  A semi-automatic requires the shooter to pull the trigger, release it and pull again.  I have a shotgun that will do that and it takes a total of three shells.

I have never seen an automatic weapon, so I don’t think hunters are to blame by the absurd stand of the NRA.  They represent the gun manufacturers, not the hunters — at least the hunters that I knew.  But some do buy them — why?

I have already explained that they are not hunting guns and I am not wrong.  So why are assault rifles allowed?  I don’t know.  It is crazy and it encourages nuts who feel the power of it.  They were banned for 10 years and somehow allowed to come back.

Outlawing these weapons is the correct thing to do.

Don’t cry to me about the Second Amendment.  The framers of the Constitution wanted assurance that their militia, the soldiers fighting the British in the Revolution, could “bear arms.”  From that noble cause we have our civilians using weapons of war to kill each other.  The draftsmen must be “turning in their graves.”

If we must have assault rifles then make the manufacturer “strictly liable for any damage caused by them” (prefer a total ban).  Give them some skin in the game and let them police these murderous weapons.  I would guess that the manufacturer would see to it that they would go only to owners of gun ranges who would rent them for on-site use and retake possession of them when done.

If it failed and someone was injured (and I mean a third party not the lessee), the manufacturer would be liable for damages.  Can I buy a mortar?  Can I buy a 105?  Can I buy napalm?  Sawed off shotguns are limited, but somehow the gun responsible for mass murder is exempted?

And I do not buy into “people kill people. Guns don’t kill people.”

Look, I’ve done my thing when I ran down a burglar in Portland while armed with a .22, but there was no chance that I would be confronted with an AR 15.  I don’t have a problem with allowing us to carry a weapon, but make it a fair fight.  I can’t face an AR 15 if I have a handgun.  And I believe the bad guys are overcome with that feeling of power — and it trips a very bad trigger.  Marauding through a bunch of civilians with a 38 is not going to be the same and for those who do try it — the good guy can take him down.

Mental health is a major problem, but it is not the answer to the mass killings.  Will a mother turn her ill son in?  No!  I failed miserably once when I knew I represented a dangerous person, but family pressure was immense on me to “spring him.”  When I can’t take the heat, I do not expect that you can.

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