By Larry Keane
The horrifying murders of 10 innocent lives in Buffalo, New York, by a racist hate-filled young man raises questions of why and how this criminal was able to commit crimes that defy understanding.
New York’s Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul didn’t waste a moment in calling for strict nationwide gun control laws. She made wild assumptions that the murderer obtained magazines from states other than New York. She later recanted this claim admitting she did not know where or how he obtained the magazines in his possession.
“We have some of the toughest laws in America on the books here, but the guns are coming in from other states or the enhanced magazine, which is exactly what happened here, the high-capacity magazine that led to the slaughter of people in my hometown,” Gov. Hochul told Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday show. “So, we are dealing with it on the gun side but also on the social media side. And the combination of the wild access to guns, unfettered, we need national laws to deal with this as well as the unfettered sharing of hate information on the internet, that is a lethal combination. We saw that on display here just hours ago yesterday.”
That wasn’t the case at all. Gov. Hochul should have instead waited for the facts. The murderer legally purchased the New York-compliant firearm used in his crimes after passing an FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) verification. He illegally altered and modified the firearm. There was nothing in his criminal or mental health record that would have flagged him as a prohibited individual. Later reports revealed that there should have been.
The murderer was previously known to law enforcement. Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told media the New York State Police verified that troopers responded to Susquehanna High School in Conklin, N.Y., “to investigate a report that a 17-year-old student had made a threatening statement.” The N.Y. State Police spokesperson did not identify the subject by name but said there was no target associated with the threat.
Commissioner Gramaglia added, “They investigated. They interviewed the subject, and they felt it was appropriate at that time to have that individual brought in for a mental health evaluation.”
The murderer was held for a day-and-a-half for a mental health evaluation but was subsequently released.
“As far as when we say ‘On the radar,’ there was nothing picked up on the state police intelligence, nothing that was picked up on the FBI intelligence,” Commissioner Gramaglia said. “Nobody called in. Nobody called any complaints.”
That’s despite reports that the murderer made pointed and specific threats to the school and community less than a year ago.
“A school official reported that this very troubled young man had made statements indicating that he wanted to do a shooting, either at a graduation ceremony, or sometime after,” a government official familiar with the case told the Buffalo News.
“FBI officials confirmed the shooter allegedly wanted to commit a murder/suicide at the graduation of his high school in 2021 and was taken into custody by the New York State Police and given a mental evaluation,” ABC News reported.
A mental health evaluation alone isn’t enough to list someone as a prohibited individual, which would have flagged the murderer in the FBI’s NICS. The murderer, at the time of this investigation less than a year ago, was never brought in front of a judge for a mental health adjudication. Nor was he ever referred to law enforcement as being a danger to himself or others and subject to an Extreme Risk Protection Order, or “red-flag” law that New York has in place for just these sorts of circumstances. Either would have prevented the murderer from obtaining his firearm.
Gun Control Fail
Gov. Hochul wasn’t alone in her calls for immediate, knee-jerk gun control calls without having all the facts. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) tweeted the need to “pass commonsense gun safety measures.” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) tweeted for gun control support, writing, “We are not powerless to help end this reoccurring violence unique to our nation. Reach out to organizations organizing to stop it; help bring about change.” He added a list of gun control groups.
U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) ran quickly with half-truths, parroting gun control talking points even when the facts of the tragedy didn’t align.
“You have to be 21 to buy a pistol in this country,” Rep. Kinzinger wrote on Twitter. “Can we all at least agree we should raise the age to 21 for ARs as well? Shouldn’t everyone have a background check? I think so. These are 90% issues, do it now and keep debating the rest.”
The sickening truth is that the alleged murderer chose to commit his crimes with this specific firearm to gain media notoriety. He allegedly wrote in his purported manifesto, “The effect it would have on social discourse, the extra media coverage they would provide, and the changes to gun laws that will be pushed will all help my case.”
He also allegedly indicated that he specifically chose to commit his terrible crimes in an area he believed his victims would be disarmed. He referenced New York’s strict gun control laws.
“Plus NY has heavy gun laws so it would ease me if I knew that any legally armed civilian was limited to 10 round magazines or cucked firearms.”
Citizens Reject Gun Control
Not every New Yorker is buying more gun control to protect them from deranged racist murderers. One Buffalo resident told Fox News, “It’s ridiculous. Something has to change. If more people were armed – and knew what they were doing with a gun – because it’s not the gun. It’s the person with the gun that don’t know how to act.”
Gov. Hochul and her fellow gun control politicians will likely press forward with gun control measures. They’ll do so with the mantra of “doing something” to protect their communities. Sadly, it is clear that gun control measures are disarming law-abiding citizens. Their gun control laws are leaving innocent people vulnerable to the most evil in society who have no respect for the law – or life.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.