Bidens visit sites of Maine shootings, mourn victims

By Nandita Bose

LEWISTON, Maine (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden made a solemn trek on Friday to the two sites in Lewiston, Maine, where a gunman killed 18 people last month and said the latest mass shooting had opened painful wounds all across America.

“We’re here to grieve with you, so you know you’re not alone,” said Biden, who was joined by his wife Jill.

The Bidens placed a spray of flowers at a memorial for the victims set up outside Schemengees Bar and Grille, and later visited the Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley, the two places where gunfire rang out and patrons were killed.

The trip was yet another test of Biden’s ability to console people affected by tragedy, barely two weeks after he met in Tel Aviv with survivors of an attack by Hamas militants that killed 1,400 people in southern Israel.

Biden noted he had visited the sites of other mass shootings since he became president in early 2021 — “too many to count.”

On Oct. 25, a gunman opened fire on people first at the bowling alley and then at the bar, killing 18 people, injuring 13 and sending shock waves through the rural community.

Robert R. Card, 40, a U.S. Army reservist, was identified as the killer. He took his own life inside a cargo trailer parked on the lot of a recycling plant where he once worked.

Biden renewed his long-shot appeal for measures aimed at reining in rampant gun violence, saying he believed that a consensus among Democrats and Republicans is ultimately possible.

“This is about common sense, reasonable, responsible measures to protect our children, our families, our communities,” he said.

After his remarks, the Bidens met privately with family members, community members and first responders personally affected by the shooting.

“Recovering from this attack will be long and difficult, and President Biden is committed to marshaling resources from across the federal government to support Lewiston every step of the way,” said Stefanie Feldman, director of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

She also said Biden will continue urging Congress to act on gun safety legislation that has been stalled.

The latest mass shooting in the United States prompted U.S. Representative Jared Golden, whose constituents died in the massacre, to reverse his opposition to a ban on assault-style weapons.

But his change of heart does not change the equation in Washington, where Biden’s push to reinstate a ban of such guns has been a non-starter for Republicans who control the House of Representatives and back gun rights.

(Reporting By Nandita Bose and Steve Holland; Editing by Trevor Hunnicutt and Jonathan Oatis)