Editor’s note: Marshall Brain – futurist, inventor, NCSU professor, writer and creator of “How Stuff Works” is a contributor to WRAL TechWire.  Brain takes a serious as well as entertaining look at a world of possibilities for Earth and the human race.  He’s also author of “The Doomsday Book: The Science Behind Humanity’s Greatest Threats.” 

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RALEIGH – There is so much bad stuff appearing in the news feed right now. Then we woke up on Thursday morning (October 26, 2023) and the big headline that greeted all of us at The Drudge Report was about another mass shooting.

To understand how awful this mass shooting is, consider all the other news this week that it is pushing out of the way in order to be in this position of prominence:

  • The war in Gaza
  • The war in Ukraine
  • The election of a new speaker of the United States House of Representatives
  • All of Trump’s ongoing legal tribulations
  • Terrible news about climate change coming out of Antarctica
  • The unprecedented drought in the Amazon rainforest
  • The Category 5 hurricane that hit Acapulco

These are all huge, important stories. But the Maine mass shooting beats them all. The Google News home page on Friday morning  was the wall-to-wall coverage of the Lewiston shooting continues:

Why is this story so compelling? First, it is in the Top 10 deadliest mass shootings list in the United States, just adjacent to the Uvalde shooting last year:

Mass shootings in the United States – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_shootings_in_the_United_States#Deadliest_mass_shootings_since_1949

21 people died in Uvalde (#9 on the list) while 18 people died in Lewiston (#10 on the list).

The second reason is because everything seems so obvious in retrospect. Let’s double-click on the New York Post article:

Massacre shows how Maine — and nation — fail to deal with violent mentally ill – https://nypost.com/2023/10/26/opinion/massacre-shows-how-maine-and-nation-fail-to-deal-with-violent-mentally-ill/

“Robert Card, suspect in the Lewiston, Maine, shootings, is a 40-year-old Army reservist, a trained firearms instructor, and had recently reported mental health issues including hearing voices. Card was reported to have been committed to a mental-health facility in Maine for two weeks this summer.”


“This is what psychiatry calls homicidal ideation with a concrete plan. It is justification for involuntary commitment to a psychiatric facility and it immediately raises the question of why Card was reportedly released after only a two week stay.”

Compare this to the Uvalde shooter, where again it seemed obvious that there was a problem:

A report detailed the missed warning signs and motives of the Uvalde gunman – https://www.npr.org/2022/07/17/1111945402/uvalde-shooter-warning-signs-report

“At age 17 he had only completely ninth grade and was then involuntarily withdrawn from Uvalde High School because of his lack of attendance and poor academic performance. After dropping out of high school, the gunman ‘turned down a dark path,’ becoming more isolated from those around him, according to the report. ‘The attacker began to demonstrate interest in gore and violent sex, watching and sometimes sharing gruesome videos and images of suicides, beheadings, accidents, and the like, as well as sending unexpected explicit messages to others online,’ the report said.”


“Investigators say there was nothing in the law to prevent him from buying ‘two AR-15-style rifles, 60 magazines, and over 2,000 rounds of ammunition’ as soon as he turned 18.”

In the Uvalde case: Who could imagine that a person who drops out of high school, who starts sending beheading videos to others online, and who then purchases two assault rifles plus 2,000 rounds of ammo, might have something nefarious in mind?

In the Lewiston case: Who could imagine that a person who is committed to a mental hospital for “homicidal ideation with a concrete plan, and who is a “gun fanatic”, might go off the rails and shoot somebody?

This NBC News interview with Liam Kent, a local resident, offers some background on the Lewiston shooter:

Maine resident: People knew to ‘stay away’ from Robert Card – https://www.nbcnews.com/now/video/maine-resident-people-knew-to-stay-away-from-robert-card-196448325881

“The family and Robert they are all gun fanatics. They are, for all intents and purposes, very much associated with right-wing militias. It is known in the town to stay away from them and to not approach them. If you see them, you just turn around and walk away.”

Assault weapons and their lethality

Think about assault-style rifles like the AR-15 along with their high-capacity magazines; Why are they even available to the general public? We covered this in an article last year after the Uvalde shooting:

Guns & doomsday: How can we reduce mass shootings and deaths? – https://wraltechwire.com/2022/06/10/guns-doomsday-how-can-we-reduce-mass-shootings-and-deaths/

The problem with the AR-15 and its ammunition is that they are specifically designed for killing people. It is a military weapon system. A bullet coming out of a “normal handgun” can be deadly, of course. But a handgun bullet (relatively speaking) is short and fat and traveling at 700 miles per hour. By contrast, an AR-15 bullet is long and thin and travelling at 2,000 miles per hour. It causes “a gaping exit wound” and “torrential bleeding that is quickly lethal”, as graphically demonstrated in this Washington Post article:

THE BLAST EFFECT – This is how bullets from an AR-15 blow the body apart – https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/interactive/2023/ar-15-damage-to-human-body/

It’s impossible to believe that there are millions of these AR-15 style guns – specifically designed to kill people via effects like “torrential bleeding” – in the hands of normal civilians. It’s especially impossible to believe that disturbed 18-year-olds can buy two of these guns along with 2,000 rounds of ammunition and 60 magazines – enough to hold 1,800 bullets – and no one bats an eye.

The doomsday scenario hiding in plain sight

Where are we heading? Right now, these mass shootings are typically characterized as “lone wolf” kinds of events. But here is a headline this week that suggests we are going to soon see a change:

Nearly one in four Americans believe political violence justified to ‘save’ US – https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/oct/25/us-political-violence-justified-survey

“Today about 23% of Americans agree that ‘because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country’ – up from 15% in 2021… Almost one in three white evangelical Protestants believe that patriots may have to resort to political violence to save the country, markedly higher than any other religious group.”

Imagine that you live in a city with a million people in it. This headline means that 230,000 of them are thinking that they “may have to resort to political violence to save the country.”

Now imagine that 1% of them, or 2,300 people, decide they want to take action. Therefore, they form a militia, as these folks are often wont to do:

How has domestic extremism changed 2 years after Jan. 6 – https://abcnews.go.com/US/domestic-extremism-changed-2-years-after-jan-6/story?id=96242077

“Cooter explained that militias have not only become more vocal online, but more aggressive in real life, as when some gathered during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. She said the Jan. 6 insurrection came as little surprise to people who have been observing extremism in the country as it was widely discussed on social media sites like Parlor and Telegram. Some militias and right-wing groups, like the Proud Boys, were active in these channels and helped spur others to take part in the rally and later the attack on the Capitol by promoting lies about the election.”

This video shows what one of these militia movements look like: https://youtu.be/j7rJstUseKg?si=AyCn1BMl-sFUZnym&t=58

Now imagine that these 2,300 people all acquire AR-15 style weapons, as shown in the video. Imagine that they decide to act together against a high-value but largely unprotected target – A target like the U.S. Capitol was on January 6. Imagine that they are using the encrypted Internet to plan and coordinate everything. They might attack a large rally, a large parade, a political convention, etc. Imagine that each shooter kills 10 people on average. This is 20,000+ deaths in a matter of minutes.

It’s a doomsday scenario hiding in plain sight. It is incredibly easy to imagine:

  • The people tilting toward violence already exist amongst us
  • The weapons of war able to easily kill people are readily available to anyone
  • Attacks against high-value soft targets like the U.S. Capitol have already been demonstrated
  • We know that people are already forming militias and communicating amongst themselves
  • There are dozens of cities in the United States that have 1 million+ people in their metro areas, where local militias of significant size can easily form

These militia members don’t even need to kill people to destroy a city. They can instead take down pieces of the power grid with their rifles and shut the city down, as we discussed earlier this year:

Doomsday on the power grid: Domestic terrorists pose threat to all of us – https://wraltechwire.com/2023/01/13/doomsday-on-the-power-grid-domestic-terrorists-pose-threat-to-all-of-us/

How long before it happens?