Biden arrives in Maine to mourn with Lewiston after mass shooting

Since taking office, President Biden has made a somber journey through American communities desperately grieving after mass shootings: Uvalde, Texas; Monterey Park, California; Buffalo; Atlanta.

On Friday, he adds another to the list: Lewiston, Maine.

For more than two hours, Mr. Biden will mingle privately with the families of those killed or injured in last month’s rampage that claimed the lives of 18 people at a bar and bowling alley in the city about an hour north of Portland. He will also meet with nurses, local officials and first responders who spent two days searching for the killer.

It is a sad reality of the modern presidency that the occupant of the Oval Office is often called upon to channel the country’s grief and directly comfort those whose lives have been destroyed. For Mr. Biden, whose own life has been shaped by grief, it’s a role he accepts as a necessary part of healing.

The president’s brief visit is not, White House officials acknowledged, the moment for Mr. Biden to launch a strong, new push for gun control measures, although he will reiterate his desire for an assault weapons ban, universal background checks and other bipartisan legislation in Congress. they have no chance of getting through among polarized lawmakers.

Instead, the president intends to use the opportunity to encourage Americans not to accept spasms of deadly violence as just another routine part of life in the United States.

“Unfortunately — unfortunately, this type of presidential travel has become all too familiar, all too familiar,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday. “Too many times the president and first lady have traveled to communities completely torn apart by gun violence. As the president said last week, this is not normal and we cannot accept it as normal.”

Shortly after the massacre, Mr. Biden said he was frustrated by yet another mass shooting. The gunman, Robert R. Card II, 40, was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on Friday, two days after the killings.

“Once again, the American community and American families have been destroyed by gun violence,” Mr. Biden said. “In all, at least 18 souls brutally killed, more injured, some in critical condition, and a large number of families and friends who are praying and experiencing trauma that no one wants to imagine.”

The president’s arrival in Maine comes as the investigation into Mr. Card’s motives continues and law enforcement officials face questions about why nothing was done to stop Mr. Card’s rampage — even though officials in his Army Reserve unit and local police had known for months about his deteriorating mental health.

Family members of Mr. Card first alerted the Sheriff’s Office in Sagadahoc County, where Mr. Card lived, in May that he had amassed a dozen guns and was becoming increasingly paranoid and angry. At the time, the Army Reserve was already aware of his decline, records show.

Then, in September, Army Reserve officials in Saco, Maine, asked the sheriff’s office to check on Mr. Card after he punched a friend and said he was going to shoot up the reserve base and elsewhere.

But despite those warnings, the sheriff’s office never made contact with Mr. Card, choosing instead to trust that his family would be able to retrieve his weapon. Just over a month later, he carried out the deadliest mass shooting of the year.

Maine has a high rate of hunting and gun ownership and has failed to comply with “red flag” laws in other states that allow police to take guns from people determined to be a danger to themselves or others.

Instead, Maine has a “yellow flag” law that requires police to have a person evaluated by a doctor and then go before a judge before the person’s firearm can be confiscated.

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