Parkland. Newtown. Aurora. Uvalde. Sutherland Springs. Monterey Park. And now, Lewiston.
On Wednesday night, Maine’s second-largest city became another landmark in an American geography of brutality. A gunman killed at least 18 people and injured more than a dozen others in an attack that spanned two locations, a bowling alley and a bar, and turned Lewiston into a synonym for the deadliest shooting in its state’s history. The sleepy college town joins the ranks of the many cities, schools, and spaces whose names have become analogues for mass violence — including the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, where the nation’s deadliest antisemitic attack took place five years ago today.
High-profile mass shootings have become so frequent, The Trace’s Olga Pierce reports, that we are often left with the feeling that random, indiscriminate gunfire can happen anywhere, without warning. The Lewiston attack was one of at least 565 mass shootings so far this year, per the Gun Violence Archive, and the country’s 36th mass killing of 2023, according to an Associated Press database. But the tragedies that earn national attention are only a fraction of the high-fatality shootings occurring nearly every day in America, and the unequal distribution of news coverage can lead to misperceptions. In her guide to understanding mass shootings, Pierce notes that there are some common threads in these attacks — particularly around their perpetrators — and contextualizes how they fit into America’s larger gun violence crisis.
At first glance, the Lewiston shooting seems like an outlier. Maine has a low gun homicide rate, and before this week, it had no history of public mass shootings. But Michael Rocque, a sociology professor at Bates College in Lewiston, told The Trace’s Jennifer Mascia and Chip Brownlee that he’s been warning about the state’s vulnerability to mass gun violence for years. Nearly half of Maine households own a firearm, mostly for hunting and recreation, and firearm laws in the Democratic-controlled state are permissive — though, Mascia and Brownlee report, it’s possible that could change.
Right now, however, residents of Lewiston — a town whose greatest claim to fame used to be the knockout fight between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston — have been left to reckon with the attack on their community. Chad Vincent, who was at the bowling alley during the shooting, told The New York Times that he fled the attack in disbelief: “This stuff doesn’t happen in Maine. Everybody’s nice. We usually don’t have problems.”
From Our Team
A roundup of stories from The Trace this week.
The state has high rates of gun ownership, yet mass shootings were virtually unheard of — until now.
How do attacks like this week’s in Lewiston, Maine, fit into America’s larger gun violence crisis? Our team corrects some common misperceptions.
The fifth episode of The Gun Machine explores how and when police departments across the country began to stockpile high-powered weapons and gear.
The hopefuls are vying to replace longtime Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was central to the gun reform movement.
What to Know This Week
An overwhelming majority of American adults want to improve safety measures to prevent gun violence at schools, but the approaches they support diverge starkly along partisan lines. Republicans tend to more strongly support hardening schools, and Democrats veer toward social and emotional measures. [NPR]
A federal judge ruled unconstitutional a portion of New York City’s gun restrictions that require those applying for gun permits to prove they have “good moral character.” Judge John P. Cronan, a Trump appointee, found that the restriction gives officials too much discretion to deny applicants based on subjective criteria. [Gothamist]
Five years after a gunman killed 11 Jewish worshippers in an antisemitic attack at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, the community announced that it will rebuild the space. Meanwhile, nearly a year after a mass shooting that killed five people at Club Q in Colorado Springs, the queer nightclub plans to open a bar and restaurant in a new location. [Tribune-Review/KKTV]
Washington state Senator Jeff Wilson, a Republican, was arrested at a Hong Kong airport on charges of possessing a locally unregistered firearm after baggage screeners in Portland, Oregon, failed to detect an unloaded pistol in his briefcase prior to his departure. Wilson’s office said he didn’t realize that he had a gun in his possession and cooperated with law enforcement. [The New York Times/OPB]
A Pennsylvania judge reinstated all charges, including murder, against the Philadelphia police officer who shot and killed Eddie Irizarry, 27, after a municipal judge dropped the charges against the cop last month. Irizarry’s killing, and its aftermath, has become the latest flashpoint in the strained relationship between cops and Philadelphians. [WHYY]
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser introduced a new public safety package that would roll back many police reforms passed in the wake of George Floyd’s 2020 murder. The mayor’s “tough-on-crime” proposal, meant to counter a staggering rise in homicides in the city, includes a measure to ease restrictions on police use-of-force. [DCist]
The Department of Homeland Security warned that antisemitic and Islamophobic hate crimes could spike in the U.S. as violence in Israel and Palestine intensifies. With fears running high, some American Jewish people are heading to gun training classes. [ABC News/NBC News]
Nearly 8 percent of American adults consider it “very or extremely likely” that, in the next few years, they “will be armed with a gun” in a situation in which they believe political violence is justified, according to a survey from the University of California, Davis, Violence Prevention Research Program. [Injury Epidemiology]
The Supreme Court declined to restore Missouri’s “Second Amendment Preservation Act” — which bars local officials from enforcing any law that would “infringe” upon the right to “bear arms” — leaving in place a lower court order blocking the measure. Despite advocacy from students and teachers, Missouri lawmakers passed no gun restrictions in the year after a mass shooting at a St. Louis high school. [NPR/STLPR]
Conspiracy theorist and Infowars host Alex Jones can’t use bankruptcy protection to avoid paying nearly $1.5 billion in damages to the families of Sandy Hook mass shooting victims who sued over the Infowars host’s repeated false claims that the 2012 massacre was a hoax, a judge ruled last week. [Associated Press]
The names of at least 27 current and former Chicago Police officials appeared in leaked rosters for the Oath Keepers, an extremist anti-government militia that played a central role in the January 6 insurrection. Some of the named officers have troubling backgrounds including allegations of excessive force, improper searches, and racist comments on the job. [Chicago Sun-Times]
Jaden Brown, 20, was the “class clown” of his family, The Kansas City Star reported — he loved to make people laugh, his grandmother told the paper, and he could turn even a simple grocery trip into a comedy act. Brown was killed earlier this month in Kansas City, Missouri, in a double shooting that also took the life of 19-year-old Brendon Fisher. While he put on a tough front for social media, Brown was first and foremost a loving older brother to his five siblings: He’d offer advice to a sister experiencing guy troubles; spend time in the kitchen with another, who said he could make Cajun shrimp alfredo from memory. Brown loved to cook, and he had just been hired for a job at Taco Bell. But his greatest skill, per his family members, was lightening the mood. “He played around a lot,” his grandmother said. “He just loved to see people happy.”
How a Father’s Grief Led to Decades of Activism Against the Gun Industry: “The first several chapters of Griffin Dix’s new book, ‘Who Killed Kenzo: The Loss of a Son and the Ongoing Battle for Gun Safety,’ tell the heartbreaking story of the shooting and its aftermath. But most of Dix’s book is a chronicle of how his family’s intense grief was channeled into a quest for changes that could help prevent similar tragedies — and the purposeful decisions of a powerful industry that has thwarted public safety. … He forged links with others who had lost loved ones in accidents, to suicide, murder, or a mass shooting, and together they pressed lawmakers and the courts for solutions.” [The Oaklandside]
“We can use our new building to show that we could work together. We’d see we’re all people. If we can do that, then we’ve done these people — the victims — an honor, by taking a tragedy and turning it into something positive.”
— Alan Hausman, a Tree of Life attendee and emergency management specialist in Pittsburgh, on rebuilding the synagogue, to TribLive