(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited Maine to grieve with a community reeling from a mass shooting that left 18 people dead and 13 others wounded.
The Bidens arrived in Lewiston on Friday afternoon, where they met with survivors, families of the victims and first responders. They were greeted upon their arrival by Governor Janet Mills, Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline and other local officials.
Their first stop was Schemengees Bar, one of the locations of last week’s mass shooting. Biden carried a bouquet of white flowers in one hand and held the first lady’s hand in the other as they stopped at a memorial placed outside the bar with candles and signs, and held a moment of silence.
Biden then delivered remarks at the bowling alley where the gunman first stopped on Oct. 25. There, he took a moment to pay respect to the victims and renew his call for greater gun control measures.
“No pain is the same but we know what it’s like to lose a piece of our soul, and the depths of loss is so profound. Some of us have been there,” Biden said.
“Eighteen precious souls stolen, 13 wounded: Children, grandchildren, spouses, siblings, parents, grandparents, bowling coaches, union workers, beloved members, advocates and friends of Lewiston’s deaf and hard of hearing community. All of them lived lives of love and service and sacrifice.”
While Biden didn’t explicitly renew his call for an assault weapons ban, as he urged in the day after the shooting, he said its time for “commonsense” reforms.
“This is about commonsense, reasonable, responsible measures to protect our children, our families, our communities,” he 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.”
Biden’s trip to Maine was one White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said has become “far too familiar.”
Biden repeated that sentiment during his remarks in Lewiston.
“As we mourn today in Maine, this tragedy opens a painful, painful wounds all across the country,” he said. “Too many Americans have lost loved ones or survived the trauma of gun violence. I know because Jill and I have met with them in Buffalo, in Uvalde, in Monterey Park and Sandy Hook — anyway, too many to count.”
The Oct. 25 rampage unfolded when a gunman armed with a semi-automatic weapon entered a bowling alley where a children’s league was taking place and a local bar. A two-day manhunt ensued for suspected gunman Robert Card, a 40-year-old U.S. Army reservist, who was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.
Three firearms were recovered from Card’s car and on his body that appeared to have been purchased legally, officials said.
Card experienced declining mental health in the months leading up to the shooting and authorities were warned by his family members and others about his concerning behavior, authorities said, leading many to question how the shooting could have been prevented.
Ahead of Biden’s visit, a White House official highlighted what the administration says it has done on the ground in the days following the shooting, including the coordination of federal resources like expansive victim services provided by the FBI and Justice Department as well as the deployment of behavioral health and public health staff support from the Department of Health and Human Services.
“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,” Stefanie Feldman, the director of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, said in a statement.
“He will also continue to be relentless in doing everything in his power to stop the epidemic of gun violence tearing our communities apart and urging Congress to act on commonsense gun safety legislation,” Feldman said.
First responding the Maine shooting, Biden pointed to progress on addressing gun violence with last year’s passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — the first major piece of gun reform legislation in 40 years — but said it’s not enough.
“Today, in the wake of yet another tragedy, I urge Republican lawmakers in Congress to fulfill their duty to protect the American people. Work with us to pass a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, to enact universal background checks, to require safe storage of guns, and end immunity from liability for gun manufacturers,” he said the day after the Maine shooting.
But an assault weapons ban has no path forward in the current Congress, where Republicans stand opposed to prohibiting assault rifles and other military-grade weapons.
One lawmaker, though, has shifted his stance in the aftermath of the Maine tragedy.
“I have opposed efforts to ban deadly weapons of war like the assault rifle used to carry out this crime,” Rep. Jared Golden, a conservative Democrat who represents the district that includes Lewiston, said last week. “The time has come for me to take responsibility for this failure,” he said. “Which is why I now call on the United States Congress to ban assault rifles like the one used by the sick perpetrator of this mass killing.”
ABC News’ Justin Gomez contributed to this report.
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