Since taking office, President Biden has traveled a grim path through American communities desperately grieving in the wake of mass shootings: Uvalde, Texas; Monterey Park, Calif.; 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 claimed the lives of 18 people at a bar and a bowling alley in the city about an hour north of Portland. He will also meet with nurses, local officials and the first responders who spent two days in a manhunt for 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 sorrow and to directly console those whose lives have been shattered. For Mr. Biden, whose own life has been shaped by grief, it is a role he embraces as a necessary part of healing.
The president’s brief visit is not, White House officials acknowledged, a moment for Mr. Biden to begin a forceful, new push for gun control measures, although he will repeat his desire for a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks and other legislation that both parties in Congress agree to have no chance of passing among polarized legislators.
Instead, the president intends to use the opportunity to urge Americans not to accept the spasms of deadly violence as just another routine part of life in the United States.
“Unfortunately — unfortunately, this type of trip by the president has become too familiar, far too familiar,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said on Thursday. “Too many times, the president and the first lady have traveled to communities completely torn apart by gun violence. As the president said last week, this is not normal, and we can’t accept it as normal.”
Shortly after the massacre, Mr. Biden declared his frustration at yet another mass shooting. The gunman, Robert R. Card II, 40, was found dead from an apparently 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 all, at least 18 souls brutally slain, more injured, some critically, and scores of family and friends praying and experiencing trauma no one ever wants to imagine.”
The president’s arrival in Maine comes as an investigation continues into Mr. Card’s motives and as law enforcement officials face questions about why nothing was done to prevent Mr. Card’s rampage — even though officials at his Army Reserve unit and the local police knew for months of his deteriorating mental health.
Members of Mr. Card’s family first warned the Sheriff’s Office in Sagadahoc County, where Mr. Card lived, in May that he had collected about a dozen guns and was growing 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 carry out a shooting rampage at the Reserve base and elsewhere.
But despite those warnings, the Sheriff’s Office never made contact with Mr. Card, opting instead to trust that his family would be able to remove his guns. A little over a month later, I carried out the deadliest mass shooting of the year.
Maine has high rates of hunting and gun ownership and has stopped short of the “red flag” laws in other states that allow police to take guns from people who are found to be in danger to themselves or others.
Instead, Maine has a “yellow flag” law that requires the police to have a person evaluated by a medical practitioner and then go before a judge before the person’s firearms can be taken away.