ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Following the mass shooting in Buffalo, NY, the debate over gun laws has been reignited. While one side pushes for more gun laws, and another pushes for enforcing the laws the state already has, both sides, are fed up with lawmakers.
New Yorkers are fed up with hearing empty promises from politicians. Garnell Whitfield Jr., the son of one of the victims of Buffalo’s mass shooting, was sobbing as he expressed his disappointment.
“You expect us to keep doing this over and over and over again…Forgive and forget, while the people we elect and trust in offices around this country do their best not to protect us,” said Whitefield Jr., as tears streamed down his face.
According to police, this was a racially motivated hate crime. President of the Elmira-Corning branch of the NAACP, Georgia Verdier, says she wasn’t surprised, only disappointed. She says this tragedy shows the need for more gun laws.
“These weapons are not necessary. They don’t need to be on the street, we’re not at war,” said Verdier.
While others point to the fact that New York State already has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country.
“We’ve already passed those laws. What about the person, the fact of what he had done before, how was that reacted to? How did he get the gun?” questioned Tom Santulli, Republican political commentator.
Police report the Buffalo shooting suspect was evaluated after making a threat at his high school in 2021.
Executive director of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association (NRA), Tom King, said the state already has laws in place that could have made this situation avoidable.
“If this [the threat] had been reported, he wouldn’t have been able to buy a firearm, and then henceforth, you probably wouldn’t have been able to shoot the people of Buffalo as it did,” said King.
The law King is referring to is New York’s 2019 Red Flag Gun Protection Law, which prevents individuals who show signs of being a threat to others from possessing any kind of firearm.
“There would be an exception put by their name, and they wouldn’t be approved for the purchase of a firearm,” King explained.
It is not clear from the New York State police that the 2021 incident involved a threat that would have triggered the Red Flag Law.
But, political experts on both sides of the aisle say this issue is bigger than gun laws.
“We’ve done a lot of gun laws, and it’s not what stops a person that is motivated, like this individual was, with hatred,” said Santulli.
“This is a real wake-up call to the problem of hatred and racial and violence, it’s not just about guns,” said Chemung County Democratic Committee Chairman, Dora Leland.
Legislation or not, this tragic event has affected all New Yorkers.
“I felt very safe in church, I don’t anymore. In the grocery store, I don’t anymore. Because what happened in Buffalo could’ve happened in Elmira, New York. So it is not like we are so far removed from this,” said Verdier.