In a lengthy piece published by this newspaper last Sunday, reporter John Terhune finally answers a question that has been dogging the public for months: Where exactly did alleged mass shooter Joseph Eaton get the guns he used to kill his parents and two family friends at a home in Bowdoin, as well as injure a family of three along a highway in Cumberland County?

According to Eaton himself, the first one came from his mother’s purse. Using that firearm, along with others that belonged to the victims with whom the Eatons were staying, his rampage in April ended with four people dead before he left the Bowdoin home.

In Eaton’s grand jury indictment filed last week in Sagadahoc County Superior Court, authorities said he stole a total of eight handguns and a .223 caliber rifle from the home, including his mother’s, before he fled the next day and shot up I-295 in Yarmouth. That shooting injured a family of three, including one critically.

In all, two grand juries indicted the 34-year-old on 27 counts including murder, firearm theft and aggravated attempted murder.

For months, some of the more progressive legislative Democrats and anti-gun groups have pointed to Eaton’s case as a rallying call and evidence of Maine’s inadequate gun laws. And the media has let them. With headlines like “Gun control advocates call for change in response to Bowdoin, Yarmouth shooting,” among others, and an editorial by the Bangor Daily News that went for the Second Amendment’s jugular, the drumbeat of more gun control and keeping guns away from prohibited people was constant.

When we first learned of the incident, Republicans in the Maine Legislature issued a statement calling for patience as the investigation had yet to unfold. We said at the time, “Current federal and state laws should never have allowed a person with an extensive criminal history to obtain the firearm he used to commit these heinous acts. We look forward to our excellent law enforcement personnel providing us with answers.”


We said that in an attempt to prevent exactly what happened afterward. It was obvious that someone with that many firearms and Eaton’s criminal history had no legal path to obtain them. The fact that he did so just days after his release made it reasonable to consider he stole them from the home where he was staying or elsewhere. However, some live by the mantra of never leaving a good crisis go to waste. Jumping to conclusions and political posturing has now become the default approach for progressives and the media. Their track record is piling up – and not in a good way.

Using a tragedy for political gain is nothing new. It’s a fine art dating back to the Roman Senate. History is replete with examples of political actors exploiting certain events to gain power – just look at the COVID-19 pandemic. What’s become more commonplace, however, is the complete lack of ethics and curiosity in today’s media for the truth and a corresponding lack of skepticism when it comes to social media.

To their credit, nine Senate Democrats joined Republicans to defeat L.D. 168 this week after it passed the House. Eaton’s indictment and even his interviews with the Portland Press Herald undoubtedly hurt the case of gun-control advocates and progressives who sought to capitalize on it. No law would have prevented Eaton from getting the firearms and using them the way he did.

What it does show is Maine is not immune to the left’s and media’s desire to capitalize on tragedies and jump to conclusions. It also shows how often they are wrong.

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