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Biden calls on Congress to act, as U.S. officials, gun safety advocates respond to Lewiston shootings

Political leaders from around the nation take to social media following the shootings in Lewiston to express sympathy for the victims, and once again call for action on gun safety.

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President Biden called on Congress to act to pass stricter gun laws on Thursday in the wake of the mass shootings in Lewiston. Susan Walsh/Associated Press

President Biden called on Congress to act to pass stricter gun laws Thursday in the wake of the mass shootings in Lewiston, which he said likely “reopens deep and painful wounds,” for many who have survived gun violence in this country or have been traumatized by it.

“Today, in the wake of yet another tragedy, I urge Republican lawmakers in Congress to fulfill their duty to protect the American people,” Biden said. “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. This is the very least we owe every American who will now bear the scars – physical and mental – of this latest attack.”

Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the Lewiston shootings Thursday at a luncheon with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Harris said she and her husband, Doug Emhoff, were grieving for the victims.

“Doug and I mourn for those who were killed and grieve for those who were injured,” she said.

“We must continue to speak truth about the moment we are in today,” she said, noting gun violence is the nation’s leading cause of death for children.

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On his first full day on the job, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., makes a statement to reporters about the mass shooting in Maine, at the Capitol in Washington on Thursday. He did not respond to questions. J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said Thursday, “This is a dark time in America. We have a lot of problems. And we’re really, really hopeful and prayerful. Prayer is appropriate in a time like this, that the evil can, and this senseless violence, can stop.”


However, Johnson did not respond to reporters’ questions on whether the House would take up any gun legislation in response to the shootings.

In response, Maine U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, told CNN, “I certainly want the speaker to know we appreciate his prayer, his thoughts. I know I’m going to meet a lot of families and others that say, ‘You’re in Congress. We need more than thoughts and prayers.’”

Maine U.S. Rep. Jared Golden returned to Lewiston, his hometown, on Thursday, saying the shootings have led him to reverse his stance on an assault weapons ban.

“I have opposed efforts to ban deadly weapons of war, like the assault rifle used to carry out this crime,” the 2nd District congressman said. “The time has now come for me to take responsibility for this failure, which is why I now call on the U.S. Congress to ban assault rifles, like the one used by the sick perpetrator of this mass killing.”

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said Thursday afternoon that he spoke with Biden as events unfolded Wednesday evening.

“It was vintage Joe Biden,” King said. “The president took the initiative to call me. You could tell from his voice that it hit him hard.”


King said his own emotions were of shock and grief when hearing about the shootings.

“On Monday, the FBI said Maine is the safest state in America,” King said. “Two days later, we had this horrendous incident.”

Gov. Janet Mills speaks to reporters on Thursday during a news conference at Lewiston City Hall. Residents were ordered to shelter in place as police continued to search for the suspect of Wednesday’s mass shootings. Steven Senne/Associated Press

King is in favor of banning high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, which can make semi-automatic weapons operate more like automatic weapons. But he’s not in favor of an assault weapons ban because he said he doesn’t believe it would be effective. Gun manufacturers would find a way to bypass the weapons ban, but a simpler reform, such as mandating that a magazine can only carry 10 bullets and banning bump stocks, would be more effective, he said.

“I always try to be pragmatic,” King said. “I’m interested in what will work.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a phone interview Thursday morning that she spoke with the president Wednesday night as the tragedy in Lewiston was unfolding, and he promised to use federal resources to help Maine as much as possible.

“President Biden expressed his deepest sympathy. He told me he wanted to support the people of Maine in every way,” Collins said.


“It is just so hard to believe such a heinous attack could occur in our state,” she said. “Like many Mainers, I did not sleep last night.”

Collins said she also has been in communication with Tom Perez, senior adviser to Biden, and Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security secretary.

Collins said federal resources such as the FBI, Border Patrol, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, medical examiners and grief counselors are assisting in Maine with the tragedy.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said Democrats were heartbroken by the tragic shootings and hoped the shooter would be apprehended soon.

“Thereafter, we can enter into a conversation about how we try to confront the gun violence epidemic that continues to devastate community after community after community here in the United States,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Thursday at a Washington Post Live event that the shooting in Maine is “just awful,” but said it was “premature” to talk at length about it. Schumer, who helped push an assault weapon ban through Congress in the 1990s that was later allowed to expire, added: “It just breaks your heart. This, we see this all the time.”

After the event, Schumer wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that he ordered flags at the U.S. Capitol to fly at half-staff, and reiterated his call to stop the “epidemic of gun violence in our country.”

Former President Donald Trump wrote in a post on the social network Truth Social Thursday: “A terrible situation going on in Maine. At least 22 dead. It just seems to never end for the USA!”


California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted on Thursday saying “Republicans in Maine rejected a bill this year that would have required a waiting period for firearm purchases. They seriously could not fathom waiting 72 hours to buy a gun. Maine also does not:

– Ban assault weapons

– Require permits to carry a gun in public

– Require background checks on all gun sales

Our hearts are heavy tonight. We need immediate action – we cannot sit around and wait for Congress. We need to amend the Constitution to help prevent tragedies like this. ”

Maine’s legislative Republicans urged people to “stay safe and vigilant” and listen to the instructions of law enforcement while the manhunt continues.


“We continue to monitor the horrific situation in the greater Lewiston area as the manhunt is underway for the person of interest in the Lewiston mass shooting. We grieve for the families of the 18 who were killed and 13 injured in this senseless tragedy,” Maine House and Senate Republicans said in a statement.

“We thank the Lewiston Police Department, Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office, Maine State Police, our emergency first responders, local hospitals and federal authorities for their heroic efforts as the night unfolded and manhunt continues. We urge everyone to stay safe and vigilant by monitoring instructions and advisories from law enforcement, and stand ready to assist any way we can.”

Rep. Jared Golden also tweeted Wednesday that he was “horrified by the events in Lewiston tonight. This is my hometown. … Our hearts break for those who are affected.”

He followed up his previous tweets to update he was headed home to check on his family and would join Lewiston’s mayor and other Maine leaders to get a briefing on the situation.

Pingree tweeted, “The unfolding violence is shocking and I am holding the affected communities in my prayers.”

Gun safety groups Everytown For Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action also issued statements in response to Wednesday’s shootings in Lewiston. The gun safety groups vowed to support the community in the coming weeks and months.


“Our hearts are broken for the community and the loved ones of those impacted in this senseless tragedy,” said Kathleen McFadden, a volunteer and co-chapter leader with the Maine chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Bowling night, dinner with friends, supermarket trips, and school drop-offs should be safe places free from gun violence. We won’t sit idly by as this crisis tears our communities apart and will continue to demand action every single day until we are safe from gun violence once and for all.”

“Another American community is grappling with what should be the unthinkable,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “The people of Lewiston and all who love them can count on the full support of the gun safety movement in the difficult days, months, and years to come.”

“Yet again, families and communities are devastated by a senseless act of gun violence. This is not an inevitability,” said Angela Ferrell-Zabala, executive director of Moms Demand Action. “If access to guns made us safer, America would be the safest country in the world. Instead, we live in a place where you may get shot and killed by a weapon of war while simply living your life. We refuse to accept this as our reality.”

The gun safety group Sandy Hook Promise weighed in on the shootings, saying that suspect Robert Card had demonstrated warning signs that he was experiencing a mental health problem, according to a statement sent to the news media.

“We are deeply heartbroken for Lewiston, understanding all too well the profound and devastating impact that shootings like these have on a community,” Nicole Hockley, co-founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise and mother of Dylan, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. “Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and all those who have had to bear witness to and endure the consequences of this tragic and unforgivable event. It is heart-wrenching to think of families currently sheltering in place, struggling to come to terms with this news, and facing the difficult task of explaining to their children why their normal day at school cannot resume.”

Mark Barden, father of Sandy Hook victim Daniel and co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise, criticized Maine’s current firearms laws.

“Once again, a shooter chose semi-automatic rifles, the preferred weapon of mass shooters, to take the lives of innocent family members, friends, and loved ones merely going about their day,” Barden said. “Maine lacks several crucial gun safety laws, including regulations on large capacity, semi-automatic weapons, expanded background checks, and strong temporary transfer laws that enable law enforcement to temporarily disarm individuals deemed dangerous. The events in Lewiston emphasize the necessity of closing these gaps through the implementation and strengthening of public policies aimed at preventing gun violence.”

According to the organization’s statement, 565 mass shootings have been recorded by the Gun Violence Archive in 2023, each involving four or more casualties, excluding the perpetrator. “These statistics paint a bleak picture, making 2023 one of the deadliest years in the sorrowful history of gun violence,” the statement said.

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