New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday proposed new measures and signed an executive order to “strengthen and close loopholes” in the state’s gun laws in the wake of the deadly shooting in Buffalo, New York.
The governor also signed a separate executive order to “combat the steady rise in domestic terrorism and violent extremism” and “crack down on social media platforms that host and amplify content that promotes and broadcasts violent, lawless acts,” according to a press release from her office.
Payton Gendron, 18, is accused of having opened fire at a supermarket in Buffalo on May 14, killing 10 people and injuring three others. He surrendered to police who confronted him at the site. Gendron was arraigned on a first-degree murder charge to which he has pleaded not guilty. As of May 19, he is jailed under a suicide watch.
Gun Control Proposals
Hochul said her office will work with legislators to propose a package of laws that will strengthen current gun control measures and tighten any loopholes in the state.
The suspected shooter had legally bought his weapon, a Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, and later modified it with an extended magazine, which is illegal to own in New York.
“The gun the individual purchased in our state was legal,” Hochul told reporters. “But what happened was, is that you can go literally across the border to Pennsylvania and buy a magazine with 30 bullets in it. And that’s what happened. You can get the base gun here legally in the state of New York, go buy a high capacity magazine, and just attach it. That’s what happened.”
“So, we have to deal with this. And we will, we will. We have announced there is a package of gun laws that we’re going to be proposing. We have more guns to deal with.”
As part of a slew of measures, Hochul said her office will address “AOW” or “any other weapons,” which refers to a new category of weapons with characteristics that fall between rifles, shotguns, and pistols. Such weapons were “specifically designed to fall outside the realm of regulation, so they’re not subject to [New York] laws,” Hochul said.
“We are introducing legislation that revises the definition of a firearm to include those weapons, which means we’ll be able to charge and prosecute people accordingly,” she said.
Hochul also said New York’s red flag law needs to be strengthened. Red flag laws allow law enforcement to confiscate guns from those who are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others.
“People are wondering how you had the right to acquire the weapon in the first place when you are this individual. We have red flag laws in place to prevent exactly this situation,” Hochul said.
The governor issued an executive order to require the New York State Police to file an extreme-risk order of protection under New York’s red flag law when they have probable cause to believe that an individual is a threat to themselves or others.
“Previously, current law, it’s an option to do so. And now, it’ll be a requirement,” Hochul noted.
Gendron was able to purchase his weapon in part because he was never reported under New York’s red flag law, which would have prevented the store from selling him the weapon.
Officials said on May 15 that last year, Gendron had made a reference to a murder-suicide in a paper he submitted at his high school, after which New York State Police took him into custody and had him undergo a mental health evaluation in June 2021. He was released about a day-and-a-half later, and was not charged criminally.
According to a 180-page manifesto posted online that is alleged but not confirmed to have been written by Gendron, the Buffalo area was chosen as the target of the shooting because of strict laws governing gun ownership there and because it has a large black population.
The Epoch Times has not been able to independently verify whether the manifesto was written by Gendron. The Erie County DA’s office told The Epoch Times that they are investigating the manifesto.
The author of the manifesto had identified themselves as a white supremacist. Authorities said Gendron live-streamed the shooting online. Police have called the shooting a “hate crime and racially motivated violent extremism.”
Hochul told reporters on Wednesday that the suspect shooter was “radicalized by white supremacists and white nationalist beliefs.” She said such messages and racist philosophies are “easily accessible on social media platforms.”
The incident was “white supremacy in this nation at its worst,” Hochul said, adding, “The most serious threat we face as a nation is from within … It’s white supremacism.”
Hochul is signing another executive order to “fight the troubling surge in domestic terrorism and violent extremism frequently inspired by, planned on, and posted about on social media platforms and Internet forums,” her office said.
The order will establish a unit within the Office of Counter-Terrorism at the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Service to focus exclusively on domestic terrorism.
“First time ever. They’ll develop the best practices for law enforcement, for mental health professionals, for school officials to address the rise in homegrown extremism. And we’ll make sure that they’re trained to know how it occurs, where it occurs, and how to stop it,” Hochul said.
She said a “Threat Assessment Management Program” will be launched that will include multi-disciplinary teams in counties throughout New York State that will identify and assess the domestic terrorism threats.
“This coordination is critical, it does not exist now,” Hochul said. “It does not exist, that these stakeholders need to be communicating and sharing information … Who heard what, who saw something? And then you get the law enforcement, and the mental health professionals, in some cases, school professionals, actually communicating about what they’re seeing. We have a much better opportunity to be in the prevention business, instead of just the cleanup business.”
Hochul said the executive order she’s signing will also establish a dedicated domestic terrorism unit in the New York State Intelligence Center to track domestic violent extremism through social media.
“We’re going to ensure that we have the best-in-the-nation cybersecurity teams to monitor the places where radicalization occurs,” Hochul said.
She said the suspected shooter’s live-stream of the shooting had “created an opportunity for people to see this and share what he was doing,” after which people would “create platforms so they can share their demented ideas with each other in the hopes that this continues to spread, the virus spreads,” thereby “radicalizing more.”
The governor said that algorithms on some social media platforms can serve to “elevate hateful incendiary speech.”
“There’s algorithms in place that ramp up and share this [hateful speech] even more, with higher frequency than other messages. So this incendiary content is pushed out to more people in 2022,” she said. “That’s how radicalization is occurring, through the social media echo chamber. … These social media platforms have to take responsibility. They must be more vigilant in monitoring the content, and they must be held accountable for favoring engagement over public safety.”
Hochul said she has requested New York State Attorney General Letitia James’s office to investigate the social media platforms that broadcast the attack and that “promote and elevate hate speech.”
James announced on Twitter on Wednesday: “My office is launching investigations into the social media companies that the Buffalo shooter used to plan, promote, and stream his terror attack. We are investigating Twitch, 4chan, 8chan, and Discord, among others, all platforms that the shooter used to amplify this attack.”
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.