Buffalo Shooting

A racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, reignited bitter debates around gun violence and race in America.

Stephen Webber
Leans Right
Jonathan Good
Leans Left

Facts on the Ground

Supermarket Attack. On Saturday, a gunman killed 10 patrons and injured three others at Tops Supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York. He was wearing tactical gear while a helmet camera live-streamed the attack. Police say a store security guard fired at the suspect, but the gunman was unaffected in his bulletproof vest. The shooter drove over 200 miles to the Buffalo grocery store.

Hate Crime. The incident is the city’s worst mass shooting ever. Eleven of the 13 victims were Black. Authorities are investigating the incident as a hate crime after several officials — including FBI personnel, the Erie County Sheriff, and the regional U.S. Attorney — said the shooting was racially motivated. The gunman has pleaded not guilty to murder in the first degree. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole.

Racist Motivations

Race Replacement. According to his suspected manifesto, he specifically targeted the supermarket as it was in a zip code with a high density of Black residents. The shooter’s calls for violence against Black and Jewish people arose from his belief in Replacement Theory, a racist argument claiming the government intentionally dilutes white people’s power by increasing non-white birthrates and encouraging immigration. 

In-Justification. Authorities say the gunman had extensively researched other white supremacist attacks, like the 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. The shooter cited a series of racially motivated statistics and racially essentialist theories used to paint Black people and Jews as inferior. These selectively edited statistics fail to account for secondary factors influencing the outcome of the stat. The various memes and images the shooter sourced from 4chan are commonly cited misconceptions by white supremacists. 

To learn more about how online message boards like 4chan can influence politics, view Civil’s coverage here.

Gun Control

Making a Point. According to the 18-year-old’s manifesto, the shooting was meant to illustrate the ineffectiveness of gun control laws in preventing an act of terror. To this end, he used the Bushmaster rifle manufactured during the federal Assault Weapons Ban, illegally modified his gun to exceed New York’s 10-bullet limit, and used a hunting rifle commonly exempted from gun control laws. While officials say the gun was purchased legally, New York prohibits selling the magazines he used.

Reactions

Mayor Responds. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown (D) called on Congress to pass gun reform and regulate hate speech on social media sites. He said those “on one side of the aisle” who continuously block such legislation seemingly “believe owning a gun is more precious than the sanctity of human life.”

Federal Inaction. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said congressional Democrats and the Biden administration remain committed to gun law reform but blamed Republican opposition and the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold for federal inaction.

Tech’s Responsibility? New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) echoed her fellow Democrats’ calls for gun reform. She also slammed social media platforms, arguing that the live-streaming of the attack proved these outlets do not sufficiently monitor extremist content on their sites. A Twitch spokesperson said the platform took down the video two minutes after the shooting began and highlighted its “zero-tolerance policy” against violence.

Rising Crime. Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who is running against Hochul to become governor, tweeted a statement of grief and suggested the shooting exemplified a broader rise in hate and violent crime in the state. Some Republicans have further argued that hate crimes from the Waukesha Christmas Attack to the NYC Subway Shooter have shown a broader pattern of racially motivated attacks.

Left Narrative

This hate-filled act of domestic terrorism demands quick action from state and federal leaders. The ease with which someone espousing such a vile, dangerous theory could acquire a firearm highlights the gaping loopholes in our gun laws. Americans should not have to fear they will be a victim of a mass shooting while grocery shopping. We must enact commonsense, comprehensive gun reform to prevent more of these tragic events. Right-wing propagandists like Tucker Carlson have repeatedly pushed the same Replacement Theory nonsense as this gunman. As someone who millions look to for their “news,” he — and other Republicans — must be held responsible for the dangerous, racist rhetoric they employ to whip up their base.

Left-Lean Narrative

Right-Lean Narrative

Right Narrative

The fact of this case is that a radicalized white supremacist circumvented all gun control measures to commit an act of terror. In order to prevent tragedies like this, the source of the ideology must be targeted. Identity politics, including the theory of white replacement, must be combated in our schools. If we are to prevent senseless killing, the media must also give equal credence to the racial motivations of other terrorists, such as the Waukesha Christmas Parade attacker and the NYC Subway Shooter. Additionally, a brave security guard managed to return fire, hitting the shooter. If more law-abiding gun owners had their firearms at the scene, it would have stopped the shooter far sooner. Lastly, the FBI should follow up on potential shooting threats to prevent future violence.

Questions & Answers

Reading Comprehension

Have your students take a reading comprehension quiz to see how well they understood the article and different opinions.

Launch Activity

Discussion Questions

  1. What measures could be taken to prevent future attacks? Why?
  2. How would you balance public safety and Second Amendment rights?
  3. How could authorities prevent radicalization online? Would that infringe on First Amendment rights?
  4. Does excessive media coverage inspire future shootings?
  5. How do fringe political ideologies from both sides influence radicalization?

Current Events in this story

Check out these current event pages for history, narratives, activities, and more:

Accompanying Content

min
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
Shooting In Buffalo Latest Reminder of Desperate Need for Action on Gun Violence

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and Giffords Law Center Advisor Ryan Busse respond to the tragic shooting in Buffalo. They argue it emphasizes the need for stricter gun laws.

Press Release
May 14, 2022
Left
Bias
min
Mother Jones
The Buffalo Shooter’s Manifesto Relied on the Same White Supremacist Conspiracy Pushed by Tucker Carlson

Mother Jones links the Buffalo shooter’s belief in the “great replacement theory” to conservative Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has covered it on his show.

Article
May 15, 2022
Left
Bias
min
Fox News
Buffalo shooting suspect allegedly made threat in 2021, underwent mental health evaluation

The Buffalo shooter was hospitalized and underwent a mental health evaluation in 2021 after making a “generalized threat,” according to police officials.

Article
May 15, 2022
Right
Bias
min
New York Post (News)
‘Not fitting their narrative’: Waukesha feels abandoned after tragic parade attack

A car plowed into dozens of people at the Waukesha Christmas parade, killing six people, including an 8-year-old boy, and injuring up to 60 others. This racially motivated attack has not received much coverage in the media. This article explores why.

Article
Dec 13, 2021
Leans Right
Bias
3
min
Associated Press
Buffalo officials on mass shooting at supermarket

Buffalo’s Mayor and Police Commissioner cover the mass shooting at a grocery store in their community.

Video
May 14, 2022
Center
Bias
1
min
Fox News
Eyewitness Interview from Buffalo Shootings

This brief clip shows a portion of an interview with Lewis Grady, an eyewitness to the shooting.

Video
May 15, 2022
Right
Bias

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