President Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited Lewiston, Maine, on Friday, a week after the state suffered its deadliest mass shooting.
The Bidens observed a moment of silence and laid 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 others died at the nearby Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley, three more died in hospitals.
Biden spoke with the victims’ families and showed support for the shaken community. The president described his trip as having become all too familiar as communities across the country have suffered mass shootings in recent years.
“Jill and I overdid it,” Biden said outside the bowling alley, flanked by police, paramedics and other first responders. “Jill and I are here, but on behalf of the American people, to make sure you know you are not alone.”
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The president has visited many other communities scarred by mass shootings. He went 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 reiterated his commitment to combating gun violence in the United States during his speech in Lewiston on Friday.
“It’s a matter of common sense,” he said Friday. “Reasonable and responsible measures to protect our children, our families, our communities. Because whatever our policy, it is about protecting our freedom to go bowling, to restaurants, to school, to church , without being shot.”
“As we mourn today in Maine, this tragedy opens a painful wound 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 on October 25, 2023.”
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Biden was briefed on the shooting while hosting a White House state dinner honoring Australia last week. He emerged from the event to speak by phone with Maine Governor Janet Mills and the state’s representatives in Congress. On Friday, Mills and Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline said the community was working to heal.
“We are resilient, strong and used to putting our shoulders to the wheel,” Sheline said. “But nothing can prepare a community for the heartbreak and heartbreak of losing 18 souls to horrific violence.”
Michele Stapleton, a Brunswick resident, said she was glad the president came to Maine.
“It’s very encouraging to have a president who wants to talk about gun safety. For too long, politicians may have felt that way, but maybe they were afraid to say it,” he said. -she declared.
Last week’s shooting sparked a massive manhunt for suspect Robert Card, a 40-year-old Army reservist and firearms instructor, who was found dead two days later of a gunshot wound. apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.
In addition to those killed, 13 people were injured in the shooting.
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As of Friday, there have been at least 37 mass shootings in the United States in 2023, killing at least 195 people, not including deceased shooters, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University .
The Associated Press contributed to this report.