The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

“Why Is Nothing Happening?”: Ten Bates Students Share What They Want to Say to Joe Biden Following Mass Shooting

The flag on the Bates quad hangs at half staff after the mass shooting on Oct. 25. Carly Philpott/The Bates Student

On Nov. 3, President Biden’s visit to Lewiston commanded the attention of the Bates campus. With the community and the nation glued to the President’s televised remarks, however, an important voice risked being left unheard that of Bates’ students. Throughout the weekend of Biden’s visit, The Bates Student interviewed students all over campus, asking them what they would like to say to the President about the Lewiston mass shooting. 

Many students talked about how they felt during the shooting. When she first heard about the reports of an active shooter in Lewiston, Abigail Sellnow ’27 said that she was neither “as fazed nor as worried as [she] should have been.” Her reaction made her realize how “heartbreaking [it is] that we live in a country where this is so normalized. People growing up today in America should not be used to hearing [about mass shootings].”

Maine native Nate Shore ’27 commented that the state’s false sense of security from mass shootings was permanently shattered. “For many, gun violence feels like something that will never affect them. … This is how it felt in Lewiston before Oct. 25,” he said. Reflecting on how personal trauma can inform attitudes toward Maine’s lax gun laws, Shore argued that “experiencing the lockdown and [the] terror inflicted on Lewiston makes a difference in how strongly we feel about supporting gun safety legislation.” For Shore, however, a pressing problem remained: “How can we get this message across to more Americans without them having to personally suffer what [happened] in Lewiston?” 

Students such as Caitlin Chan ’24 found hope in the community’s solidarity and strength after the Lewiston tragedy. “Even in such a dark time, there is still so much light in the Lewiston community … because there is resilience and so much love for our neighbors,” Chan said. Asked what she would like to say directly to Biden, however, she pointed out that such positive emotions “cannot protect our community from unjustified acts of violence. President Biden, I ask you to not let the events in Lewiston be a forgotten tragedy but an urgent message for change regarding gun policy. Please help [Lewiston] see that there is still a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Some students were shocked, angered and saddened by the government’s failure to prevent these catastrophes by passing gun safety legislation — a sentiment they wanted to share with President Biden. Emma Erkkila ’26 wanted to ask the President, “Why is nothing happening? Why isn’t common sense gun reform being passed? How many more mass shootings will there be before lawmakers take action?”

Other students were concerned that the President’s visit to Lewiston would be his sole response to the mass shooting and that he would not pursue further gun reform legislation. Zain Erakky ’26 asked President Biden, “Why are you just visiting Lewiston? What’s the next step or action [that you will take to] stop the next mass shooting from happening?” 

Carmen Liang ’26, who was born and raised in Maine, wanted President Biden to take a more active role in convincing Maine Democrats to support stricter gun legislation. “While you’ve called for a ban on assault weapons, a lot of Maine politiciansincluding some Democrats refuse to support such legislation. What actions are you going to take to change the minds of these lawmakers, especially those in your own party?” she asked. 

Evan Wells ’24 also called on Biden to become a leader in advocating for gun reform and to “use all of the power and resources you can to prevent this from happening again. I know the real power is in the electorate but as the world’s most recognizable leader we are calling on you to make real change. This needs to stop.” 

Not every student on campus, however, was convinced that stricter gun legislation would prevent gun violence. John Baxter ’24 argued that “instead of trying to find simple solutions to complex problems, policymakers should try and find actual, effective solutions. I’m not convinced things like ‘assault weapon’ bans would be effective, and I think that people should have adequate means for self-defense. I think the US mental health system is where the majority of tangible advances could be made, and I think the focus on firearms is misguided.” 

Jade Pinto ’25 shared Baxter’s concern about the nation’s inadequate mental health services. “This particular shooting in the Lewiston community was also a failure … [in] mental health services. … What do you propose we do to better our health services and understanding of mental illnesses? Is this a funding or education issue?” they asked. For Pinto, however, mass shootings are both a mental health and gun reform issue. In addition to fixing the country’s mental health services, they urged the President to “take intensive action on gun control, background checks and the ban of automatic weapons.” 

An international student from France, Sebastien Kleitman ’24, argued that mass shootings are a uniquely American tragedy. “Living through this mass shooting has left me angry and hopeless. Every time this happens, it’s the same dance. First, there’s shock, then anger, then grief and finally we get over it only for it to happen again, somewhere else. The death of the perpetrator is received with relief and joy, giving us the justification to move on and forget. 

“This is not normal,” Kleitman said. “No country lives like this. Having lived through this experience, I can exclaim to my friends and family back home in France that I have lived through a truly American experience.” 

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About the Contributor
Lena LaPierre
Lena LaPierre, Assistant Forum Editor
Lena is a sophomore from Hattiesburg, MS, majoring in History with a minor in Russian. When she is not busy writing essays or memorizing Russian grammar rules, Lena can be found reading, volunteering with College Guild and exploring Maine with her friends. Previously, Lena was a contributing writer for The Bates Student.

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