Biden and first lady Jill Biden added a bouquet of white flowers to a makeshift memorial outside Schemengees Bar and Grille, one of the scenes of the shooting. They also stood for a moment of silence before bending over to hug bar owner Kathy Lebel.
The Oct. 25 shooting at a bowling alley and bar killed 18 people and injured 13 more. Robert Card, a 40-year-old firearms instructor, was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after the killings and a dayslong manhunt.
“Too many times the president and first lady have traveled to communities completely torn apart by gun violence,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on the eve of the Bidens’ trip Friday. “We can’t accept it as normal.”
The Bidens will pay their respects to the victims, meet with first responders and grieve with families and community members affected by the shootings, Jean-Pierre said.
The president has long made gun control and violence prevention a cornerstone of his politics, but it’s uncertain if he will push for congressional action during his visit.
The president has visited many communities scarred by violent attacks. He’s been to Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas; and Monterey Park, California just in roughly the past year.
“There are too many other schools, too many other everyday places that have become killing fields, battlefields here in America,” Biden said during a speech on gun violence last year.
There were several red flags before Card’s rampage.
According to NBC News, Card’s family told law enforcement and military officials that he was having mental health difficulties.
Army Reserve leaders also said he was “behaving erratically” and deemed that he shouldn’t have access to a weapon.
The Army released the following information about Card’s timeline leading to its investigation:
On July 15, 2023, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Card traveled with his Army Reserve unit, the 3rd Battalion, 304th Infantry Regiment, to Camp Smith, New York, for annual training. Shortly after its arrival and out of caution, unit leadership directed and transported Card to a military medical treatment facility at West Point in New York.
On July 17, unit leadership understood that Card was at Four Winds Hospital in New York, which is part of the civilian sector of the hospital, not under the Army or Defense Health Agency (DHA). While his unit supported West Point summer training, there are no records to indicate that Card instructed or participated in any training.
Card returned to his Maine home on Aug. 3. The Army declared that while on military duty, Card should not have a weapon, handle ammunition or participate in live-fire activities. The Army also declared him nondeployable.
In Maine, reservists kept voicing their worries about Card after he returned.
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.
NewsNation’s Kellie Meyer, Urja Sinha and The Associated Press contributed to this report.