President Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited Lewiston, Maine on Friday, a week after the state suffered its deadliest mass shooting.
The Bidens stood for a moment of silence and placed a bouquet of white flowers at a makeshift memorial outside Schemengees Bar and Grille, where eight of the 18 victims of the Oct. 25 attack were killed. Seven more died at the nearby Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley, three others died at hospitals.
Biden spoke with the families of the victims and showed support for the reeling community. The president described his trip as one that has become all too familiar as communities across the country have suffered mass shootings in recent years.
“Jill and I have done too many of these,” Biden said outside the bowling alley, flanked by police officers, EMTs and other first responders. “Jill and I are here, though on behalf of the American people to make sure you know that you’re not alone.”
The president has visited many other communities scarred by mass shootings. He’s been to Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas; and Monterey Park, California, in recent years.
Immediately after last week’s horrific shooting in Lewiston, Biden called on Congress to ban AR-15s and other so-called assault weapons. The Democratic president repeated his commitment to fighting against gun violence in the U.S. during his speech in Lewiston on Friday.
“This is about common sense,” he said Friday. “Reasonable, responsible measures to protect our children, our families, our communities. Because regardless of our politics, this is about protecting our freedom to go to a bowling alley, a restaurant, a school, church, without being shot and killed.”
“As we mourn today in Maine, this tragedy opens a painful wound, all across the country,” Biden added. “Too many Americans have lost loved ones or survived the trauma of gun violence.”
A sign outside the Just-In-Time bowling alley, where the shooting began, read: “Lewiston Strong! Remembering our loss Oct. 25 2023.”
Biden was notified of the shootings as he hosted a White House state dinner honoring Australia last week. He stepped out of the event to speak by telephone with Maine Gov. Janet Mills and the state’s representatives in Congress. On Friday, both Mills and Lewiston mayor Carl Sheline said the community was working to heal.
“We are resilient, strong and used to putting our shoulder to the wheel, Sheline said. “But nothing can prepare a community for the grief and sorrow of losing 18 souls to horrific violence.”
Michele Stapleton, a resident of Brunswick, said she was glad the president came to Maine.
“It’s very encouraging to have a president who wants to speak about gun safety. For too long, politicians have maybe felt that way, but they were maybe afraid to say it,” she said.
Last week’s shooting prompted a massive manhunt for suspect Robert Card, a 40-year-old Army Reservist and firearms instructor, who was found two days later dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Besides those killed, 13 people were injured in the shootings.
As of Friday, there have been at least 37 mass killings in the U.S. in 2023, leaving at least 195 people dead, not including shooters who died, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.