Since taking office, President Biden has taken a somber route through American communities grieving desperately 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 huddle privately with the families of those killed or injured during last month’s rampage that killed 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 manhunting the killer.
It is the 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 life has been shaped by grief, it’s a role he embraces as a necessary part of healing.
The president’s brief visit, White House officials conceded, is not a time for Mr. Biden to launch a vigorous, new push for gun control measures, although he will reiterate his desire for a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks and other legislation that both parties in Congress agree have no chance of passing through polarized lawmakers.
Instead, the president intends to use the opportunity to urge Americans not to accept spasms of deadly violence as just another part of the routine of life in the United States.
“Unfortunately — unfortunately, this kind of presidential travel has become very familiar, very familiar,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday. “Too many times, the president and first lady have traveled to communities that have been 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 expressed his dismay at 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, an American community and American families have been devastated by gun violence,” Mr. Biden said. “In total, at least 18 souls were brutally killed, more injured, some critically, and dozens of relatives and friends were praying and experiencing trauma that no one wants to imagine.”
The president’s arrival in Maine comes as the investigation continues into Mr. Card’s motives and as law enforcement officials face questions about why nothing was done to stop Mr. Card’s rampage — even though officials in his unit Stratou and the local police had been aware of his deteriorating mental health for months.
Mr. Card’s family members first alerted the Sheriff’s Office in Sagadahoc County, where Mr. Card lived, in May that he had amassed about a dozen guns and was becoming increasingly paranoid and angry. By that 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 go on a shooting spree at the reserve base and elsewhere.
But despite these warnings, the Sheriff’s Office never contacted Mr. Card, choosing instead to trust that his family could remove his guns. A little more than a month later, he carried out the deadliest mass shooting of the year.
Maine has high hunting and gun ownership rates and has stopped short of “red flag” laws in other states that allow police to take guns from people deemed 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 firearms can be taken away.