President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited Lewiston, Maine Friday to meet with family members of the victims and first responders nine days after a gunman killed 18 in a bar and a bowling alley.
Upon arriving in Maine, the president and first lady made an unscheduled stop at Schemengees Bar and Grille, one of the two places 40-year-old Robert Card attacked his victims.
They placed a bouquet of flowers at the makeshift memorial out front of Schemengees and then met with first responders at the bowling alley, before Biden delivered a brief speech.
With a ‘Lewiston Strong!’ behind him, he again pushed for additional gun control measures to be passed.
‘This is about common sense, reasonable, responsible measures to protect our children, our families, our communities,’ Biden said. ‘Because regardless of our politics, this is about protecting our freedom to go to a bowling alley, a restaurant, a school, a church without being shot and killed.’
President Joe Biden said Friday that ‘this is about protecting our freedom to go to a bowling alley, a restaurant, a school, a church without being shot and killed,’ as he called – again – for additional gun control measures to be passed
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden made an unscheduled stop at Schemengees Bar and Grille, one of the two places where the Lewiston shooting occurred, and left a bouquet of flowers at the makeshift memorial
The Lewiston shooting marked the nation’s 36th mass shooting in 2023, according to data from The Associated Press and USA Today, with Biden showcasing his frustration by calling out the names of several others that have occurred during his time as a public official.
‘Too many Americans have lost loved ones or survived the trauma of gun violence,’ he noted.
‘I know because Jill and I have met with them in Buffalo and Uvalde and Monterey Park and Sandy Hook, anyway, too many to count, too many to count. From places that never make the news, all across America,’ Biden said.
The horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting happened while Biden was serving as vice president.
After Biden delivered his remarks in front of Just-In-Time Recreation, he and the first lady met with victims’ family members behind closed doors.
One of the victims was a 14-year-old bowler, while the local deaf community is in mourning as another was a sign language interpreter.
The president and first lady were hosting Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his partner Jodie Haydon at a White House state dinner on October 25 when news broke of the horrendous Maine shooting.
President Joe Biden (left), with first lady Jill Biden (right), delivered brief remarks Friday outside Just-In-Time Recreation, the bowling alley where part of the Lewiston shooting took place
Republican Sen. Susan Collins briefly used sign language as she delivered her remarks Friday, as one of the 18 victims was a sign language interpreter
Biden stepped out of the glitzy dinner to get briefed on the mass shooting and manhunt and later that night spoke by phone to Maine Gov. Janet Mills, Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins and Rep. Jared Golden.
Two days after the shooting, Card was found dead.
There’s immense frustration surrounding the Maine shooting, because there were plenty of warnings that Card might snap.
During military training in New York, he said people were accusing him of being a pedophile.
He pushed one reservist and locked himself in his motel room, leading commanders to take him to the base hospital.
From there, he was taken to a private mental health facility where he was hospitalized for 14 days.
His military weapons were taken away.
The Beast, carrying the president and first lady, arrives at Just-In-Time bowling in Lewiston, Maine on Friday, nine days after a gunman killed 18 at the bowling alley and a bar
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden walk with Maine Gov. Jane Mills in Lewiston, Maine on Friday
Maine officials say they were unaware of any alerts from officials in New York. And it’s unclear if there was any effort to invoke New York’s red flag law while he was in the state.
Maine has a ‘yellow flag’ law on the books, which requires more hurdles than New York’s red flag law.
Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Ruth Castro said she couldn’t tell The Associated Press whether Card was committed to a psychiatric facility on his own free will or involuntarily because of a federal health privacy law.
She said the same law prevented her from saying what Card’s diagnosis was after he was evaluated.
She denied requests to answer other questions about what the Army did or did not do to inform others of Card´s condition, citing ongoing law enforcement investigations.
Back in Maine, reservists kept voicing their worries about Card after he returned in early August.
Family members told a deputy that his mental health deterioration had begun in January, and his ex-wife and son had alerted police in Maine that Card was angry and paranoid, as well as heavily armed with 10-15 guns he’d taken from his brother’s home.
People can be legally barred from having guns for a few reasons, including felony convictions and domestic-violence protection orders.
But whatever the reason, removing guns a person already has is often complicated, said Anderman, the senior counsel at the gun violence law center.
‘Most states do not have adequate relinquishment provisions for when people become prohibited,’ she said.
A commitment to a mental-health facility also bars people from having guns under federal law, but that measure doesn’t have a mechanism to take away any weapons a person already has.
And although Card was treated at a facility, the FBI says nothing was entered into the federal background check system that would have prevented him from buying weapons.
In a text early on Sept. 15, one of Card’s fellow reservists urged a superior to change the passcode to the gate and have a gun if Card arrived at the Army Reserve drill center in Saco.
The reservist said Card refused to get help for his mental illness ‘and yes, he still has all his weapons.’
‘I believe he’s going to snap and do a mass shooting,’ the reservist wrote.
That was the same day a deputy went to Card’s home in Bowdoin, but no one was home. The deputy returned the following day and heard noises inside but Card didn’t answer the door.
The deputy called for backup, but they eventually left.
The sheriff said his deputies didn’t have legal authority to break down the door and take Card, and there’s no indication the deputy ever spoke to him – the first step to triggering the yellow card law.
The sheriff’s office canceled its statewide alert seeking help locating Card, who they described as ‘armed and dangerous,’ a week before the Lewiston shooting.