A week after the worst mass shooting in modern Maine history, survivors and loved ones of the victims are struggling to find answers about why their community was targeted and what can be done to prevent more attacks.
Ahead of President Joseph Biden’s visit to Lewiston on Friday, four people shared different views of the actions they want to see and doubts about whether they are politically feasible.
Eighteen people were killed, 13 injured and countless others traumatized when Robert R. Card II walked into two Lewiston businesses last Wednesday and opened fire. After a 48-hour manhunt, police found Card dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Here is what some of those most affected by the shootings at Schemengees Bar and Grille and Just-In-Time Recreation would like to ask the president and what they want him to know.
Danielle Grondin, survivor
Grondin was taking part in a regular Wednesday night bowling league tournament at Just-In-Time Recreation when Card walked in and began shooting. At one point, she came face to face with Card who had his rifle trained in her direction, she said. The gun jammed, and Grondin’s boyfriend helped get her to safety.
Grondin said she would like to see Biden and others in positions of power focus on the breakdowns in the existing system that allowed Card to have any guns in the first place and on making sure those in need of mental health help actually get it.
“Why on God’s green earth did this man, who was clearly screaming out for help, get denied a silencer?” Grondin said. “But [it] wasn’t followed up with as to why he might want said silencer?”
“We need to focus on something that might actually save a life in the future,” she continued.
Grondin said she doesn’t believe lawmakers will ban semi-automatic rifles, pointing out how a rifle found in Card’s car — identified as a Ruger SFAR by authorities — is the same type of semi-automatic rifle used by hunters in Maine. She also doesn’t believe banning semi-automatic guns would stop killings.
“Is there anyone who truly, truly believes that a man who was willing to walk into two businesses in Lewiston, Maine, and casually murder 18 people and shoot at children would have hesitated to purchase a gun illegally?” Grondin asked.
“There are so many things I can’t wrap my head around,” she said. “I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for answers.”
Keri Brooks lost her brother, friends
The shooting has hurt Maine’s deaf community in particular with four killed by Card as they took part in a regular cornhole tournament at Schemengees. Among them was Brooks’ brother, Bryan MacFarlane.
Brooks wanted Biden to know that Card is not the only guilty party. She pointed a finger at Republicans in Congress and said she wants Biden to continue working as hard as he can to bring about a ban on semi-automatic weapons.
“It’s not only the shooters’ hands that are bloody, but the hands of the lawmakers who oppose the assault weapon ban are bloody as well,” Brooks said. “Every single mass shooting involving an assault weapon was entirely preventable.”
Nick Wilson, founder of Maine Event Cornhole
Wilson was not at Schemengees at the time of the shooting, but he knew people who were — all members of Maine’s cornhole community.
Wilson said he does not believe Biden’s visit will tangibly help anyone or bring peace to victims’ families.
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Instead of looking at gun control, Wilson believes Biden should turn his attention to getting people the help they need.
“I would say to him that his administration hasn’t done anything to support mental health,” Wilson said.
Ralph Brewer’s brother was killed playing cornhole
Brewer’s younger brother’s life was on track with a fiance, a beloved daughter and plans to purchase their first home. It was all cut short when Peyton Brewer-Ross was shot and killed playing cornhole at Schemengees.
Brewer said he wants to know how many more people need to die before gun control laws will pass and help prevent future mass shootings.
“I would thank [President Biden] for coming to Lewiston,” Brewer said. “Then I’d ask him, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ Because we have to figure this out.”
Right now Brewer said the country is caught in a vicious cycle of gun violence with all three branches of government seemingly lacking the will to break it.
He wants Biden to know that semi-automatic weapons should be taken off the streets and out of the public’s hands, and people who are dangers to themselves and others should not have access to weapons, he said.
A veteran who saw combat in Iraq, Brewer said the kinds of guns used in mass shootings in the United States have one purpose only.
“They are made to kill people, and there is no place in society for these high-capacity magazines and large-caliber weapons,” he said. “I am for the Second Amendment, but people with problems are not the best ones to have guns.”
While he hopes the mass shooting will be enough to convince the president and others to take action, he’s not optimistic, he said. The country has seen many mass shootings, including those where children were killed, such at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, in 2012 where 26 people — 20 children — were killed.
“There needs to be action and it comes from the top down,” Brewer said. “But they could not get together when a bunch of first and second graders were killed at Sandy Hook. Will they get together for a bunch of folks at a bowling alley and a bar?”