The author and one of the state's most famous residents said the culprit is clear: "It’s the rapid-fire killing machines, people.... Stop electing apologists for murder."
With a massive manhunt still underway Thursday morning in the state of Maine for the suspect behind the massacre in the city of Lewiston that left 18 people dead and at least 13 wounded, defenders of stronger gun control laws lashed out at political leaders who have failed to back or impose assault weapons bans or other measures despite the nation's epidemic of mass killings.
Schools were closed across the state Thursday and a shelter-in-place order remained in effect for a large region surrounding Lewiston in central and southern Maine as police looked for Robert Card, aged 40, announced overnight as the person of interest in shootings in two separate locations.
Among the critics aiming their ire at political failures was author and longtime Maine resident Stephen King. "The shootings occurred less than 50 miles from where I live. I went to high school in Lisbon," King tweeted early Thursday, including a reference to the small town where an automobile believed to belong to Card was found by law enforcement after the shootings.
"It’s the rapid-fire killing machines, people," King said. "This is madness in the name of freedom. Stop electing apologists for murder."
The gunman who carried out Thursday night's shooting at the Sparetime Recreation bowling alley and Schemengees Bar & Grille was shown in security camera footage released by law enforcement to be carrying a long gun which some experts identified as an AR-15-style semiautomatic assault rifle.
Scott Sweetow, a former member of the FBI's Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center, said in an interview with NBC10 in Boston that the gunman in the footage was "kitted out to kill people."
"THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN IN OTHER COUNTRIES," tweeted King in a separate post.
Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, founder of the gun violence prevention organization GIFFORDS, called the events in Lewiston another "senseless act of gun violence" that exposes the failures of the nation's elected leaders.
"It doesn't have to be this way and it shouldn’t be this way," Giffords said. "Entire communities shouldn’t have to live in fear of an active shooting. My heart breaks for the Lewiston community, the victims, and the survivors. Earlier this week, I visited Uvalde and met with the families and survivors of that mass shooting. I'm angry that yet another community has to experience this pain. Our leaders must act."