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.
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.
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.
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.