Maine Shooting

Rain soaked memorials for those who died sit along the roadside by Schemengees Bar & Grille on Oct. 30, 2023, in Lewiston. Matt York/Associated Press, file

Spurred by the Lewiston mass shooting, all four members of Maine’s congressional delegation are co-sponsoring legislation that would require the military to conduct brain health screenings for service members and track their exposure to blasts.

Sens. Angus King, an independent, and Susan Collins, a Republican, are co-sponsoring a bill in the Senate, while Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and Jared Golden, D-2nd District, are co-sponsoring a similar bill in the House.

Robert Card, the U.S. Army reservist who killed 18 people during a shooting rampage in Lewiston in October, had been “exposed to thousands of low-level blasts” during years of grenade training in New York state, according to personnel records. A forensic analysis of Card’s brain tissue conducted by Boston University and released in March concluded that resulting injuries to his brain likely played a role in his declining mental health before the mass shooting.

King, in an interview with the Press Herald, said the Lewiston shootings helped create a sense of urgency in putting together a bill, and he believes the proposal could be added to the National Defense Authorization Act in May. King said the bill, if it becomes law, could prevent injuries to members of the military and prevent future tragedies because brain injuries can lead to erratic behavior.

“What we are really talking about here is common sense,” King said. “It’s something that has to be done.”

King said science in recent years – including the analysis of Card’s brain tissue – increasingly points to “a huge amount of TBI (traumatic brain injuries) occurring in proximity to blasts.”


King and Collins have co-sponsored the bipartisan bill proposed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

The bill, called the Blast Overpressure Safety Act, would require the military to monitor service members’ blast exposures in training, and regularly perform neurocognitive tests to look for potential brain injuries.

“Traumatic brain injury is an all-too-often undetected or misdiagnosed condition that can have debilitating and tragic effects on our wounded servicemen and women,” Collins said in a statement. “If these injuries go undiagnosed or are left untreated, the consequences can be devastating. Our soldiers and veterans suffering from TBI as a result of their service deserve the best care and treatment our nation can provide. This bipartisan legislation will help improve critical research, accurate diagnosis and lifesaving treatment for those heroes who serve and defend our nation.”

King said all members of the military would receive a baseline neurological test and then further screening, testing and treatment if they were exposed to blasts or other incidents that could be linked to brain injuries.

“The Defense Department is not meeting its responsibilities to prevent traumatic brain injuries from blasts,” Warren said in an interview with The New York Times. “We are beginning to understand the scope of the threat, and how devastating the injury can be. But the Department of Defense is not moving with the urgency they need to use.”

The bill also would require the military to change how it designs new weapons, and modify existing weapons, to minimize blast exposure.


In March, the Army said it soon would unveil new training protocols to better protect members of the military during training.

The measures would include “an Army-wide blast overpressure safety campaign to increase understanding of potential risks, direct risk mitigation actions, require documentation of training environments that exceed a 4 PSI (pounds per square inch) and require tracking of exposed personnel.” A working group would look into further actions, the Army said in a statement in March, although it didn’t specifically mention brain screenings.

Card, of Bowdoin, exhibited erratic and disturbing behavior in the months before the shooting, resulting in a two-week psychiatric hospitalization in New York state in July 2023.

A similar bill is slated to be introduced in the House, with Pingree and Golden as co-sponsors.

Pingree said in a statement that “Robert Card’s brain injuries should have been tracked, managed and treated by the military. I plan to co-sponsor the Blast Overpressure Safety Act to ensure service members who are exposed to low-level blasts are screened for neurocognitive issues and receive the support they need.”

Golden said in a statement that the bill will help prevent brain injuries, and when they do happen, they will be treated early.

“Our service members have signed up to face tremendous risks in service and defense of our country, and Congress should do what we can to mitigate those risks,” Golden said.

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