The deadliest mass shooting of the year will present the president with the familiar ritual of comforting grieving families. He will likely also press his case for gun control.
President Biden will travel to Maine on Friday to pay his respects to the 18 people killed and more than dozen wounded during a gunman’s rampage through a bar and bowling alley in Lewiston, Maine, last week, the White House announced.
Shortly after the massacre, Mr. Biden declared his frustration at the taking of yet more lives in a mass shooting. The gunman, Robert R. Card II, 40, was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot on Friday, two days after the killings.
“Once again, an American community and American families have been devastated by gun violence,” Mr. Biden said on Friday as the discovery of Mr. Card’s body brought an end to a vast manhunt and lockdowns in the state. “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.”
In a statement, the White House said the president and the first lady would “pay respects to the victims of this horrific attack and grieve with families and community members.” The president will also meet with emergency medical workers, nurses and other officials, the White House said.
The visit will most likely also be an opportunity for the president to repeat his call for a ban on assault weapons and tougher gun control and mental health measures that Republicans and a few Democrats have blocked on Capitol Hill.
In his statement last week, Mr. Biden said, “I once again call on Republicans in Congress to fulfill their obligation to keep the American people safe.” But with Republicans in charge of the House and Democrats only narrowly in control of the Senate, any effort to pass major gun control legislation is all but certain to die.
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 a danger to themselves or others.
Instead, Maine has a “yellow flag” law that requires the police, a mental health clinician and a judge to agree that an individual is a danger before firearms can be taken away.
The president’s visit will come as Maine’s law enforcement officials are struggling to explain why nothing was done to prevent Mr. Card’s rampage even though officials at his Army Reserve unit had warned officials of his deteriorating mental health.
Members of Mr. Card’s family and Army officials in Saco, Maine, told officials with the Sheriff’s Office in Sagadahoc County, where Mr. Card lived, that he had grown increasingly paranoid, punched a friend and said he was going to carry out a shooting rampage.
But despite those warnings, it does not appear that authorities ever contacted Mr. Card, who carried out the deadliest mass shooting of the year.
The president had already been scheduled to travel to Delaware on Friday, as he does most weekends. White House officials did not provide details about when he would leave Washington or whether he intended to keep his weekend plans.