Hochul to strengthen gun laws, target online extremism and white supremacy in response to Buffalo mass shooting
Albany, N.Y. — Gov. Kathy Hochul unveiled a package of executive orders and legislative actions Wednesday strengthening New York’s gun laws and targeting domestic terrorism in response to the deadly race-based mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket.
The governor’s orders will strengthen the state’s “red flag” laws by requiring the State Police to seize weapons from people believed to be a threat to themselves or others and create a new unit to track online extremism.
Hochul said the shooting was a result of “the mainstreaming of hate speech, of racism and the easy access to military style weapons and magazines.”
“How many more lives have to be needlessly taken for us before we face the truth?” she added during a Manhattan news conference. “We can no longer look away and we’re not just going to call it out.”
Authorities allege 18-year-old Payton Gendron massacred 10 people Saturday at a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo after driving about 200 miles from Conklin, near Binghamton, specifically to shoot Black people.
His rampage is being investigated as a hate crime and “racially motivated violent extremism,” according to police.
All of the victims in the horrific shooting were Black.
“This is white supremacy in this nation at its worst,” Hochul said Wednesday. “It’s infecting our society, infecting our nation and now it’s taken members of our family away.”
The governor is also directing state Attorney General Letitia James to spearhead an investigation into social media platforms that allowed the Buffalo mass shooting to be livestreamed as well as other sites that elevate hate speech and “great replacement” theory.
The racist conspiracy, cited in a 180-page online screed linked to the shooter, argues that nonwhite immigrants are being brought into the United States by elites to “replace” white Americans.
James said her office will be investigating platforms including Twitch, 4chan, 8chan, and Discord, among others that the shooter allegedly used to amplify his attack and share racist messages.
“The terror attack in Buffalo has once again revealed the depths and danger of the online forums that spread and promote hate,” James said. “The fact that an individual can post detailed plans to commit such an act of hate without consequence, and then stream it for the world to see is bone-chilling and unfathomable.”
Hochul’s executive orders call on the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to establish a new unit dedicated exclusively to the prevention of domestic terrorism. The new unit will focus on “threat assessment management, disbursing funding to localities to create and operate their own threat assessment management teams and utilizing social media to intervene in the radicalization process,” according to the governor’s office.
“The truth is the most serious threat we face as a nation is from within,” Hochul said. “It’s white supremacy. It’s white nationalism.”
Under the second order, the State Police will now be required to file an “Extreme Risk Protection Order” when they believe a person is a threat to themselves or others.
The edict is an expansion of New York’s little used 2019 “red flag” law, which allows prosecutors, police, family members, and educators to seek a civil order from a judge to have someone’s guns taken away if they’re deemed to be a danger.
Less than a year before being accused of gunning down 10 innocent people, the shooter was contacted by State Police and underwent a mental health evaluation after mentioning murder and suicide when asked by a teacher about his plans following graduation.
Since no further action was taken, there was nothing preventing the shooter from purchasing the Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle allegedly used in Saturday’s massacre. The weapon was illegally modified in order to increase its capacity, according to police.
Hochul is also calling on state lawmakers to pass a package of bills “that will close loopholes” in laws in an effort to “combat gun violence.”
An assault rifle was laid out on a desk beside Hochul, who called the weapon an unregulated firearm that can be legally modified despite New York’s already strict gun laws.
“A completely legal sawed-off,” the governor said, calling its legality a “loophole you can drive a truck through.”
One measure would expand the state’s existing ban on certain assault weapons to include firearms known as “any other weapons” or “A.O.W.s” while another would require semi-automatic handguns made or sold in the state to include features that would mark ammunition with a microstamp after they are fired.
Another part of the package would require law enforcement to report any firearm they recover from a crime scene within 24 hours so it could be tested to determine if it had been used in other crimes.