Buffalo shooting puts Hochul at the center of New York’s new gun debate

Buffalo shooting puts Hochul at the center of New York’s new gun debate

“This is what got a lot of people killed over the weekend: just wearing the skin they had on,” state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ​​said on Capitol Hill.

At center is Hochul, a Buffalo native facing a Democratic primary on June 28, nine months after taking office. As he joins the call to strengthen the state’s gun laws, he faces potential pushback from moderate and conservative voters over how far the new gun laws go, similar to strong criticism and the large number of critical stickers and posters, thrown at the then-governor. Andrew Cuomo in 2013, when the state passed the SAFE Act gun measures.

Hochul, who rushed to Buffalo from Albany on Saturday night as she emerged from Covid-19 quarantine, is turning from her fierce defense of abortion rights to grieving with her community, criticizing social media platforms for racism in line and promising to remove illegal weapons. streets.

During a Sunday church service in Buffalo, he also called on “all of our white brothers and sisters” to rise up across the country against racism “because an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us, because we are all of God.” people.”

She already has a political platform built partially around gun control and criminal justice reform as she seeks to win a full four-term term.

Hochul and the state Legislature agreed last month to a list of new efforts to combat gun violence in the state budget, including expanding bail-eligible gun crimes and allowing prosecutors to more easily bring gun trafficking charges. . The state is also investing millions of dollars in community gun violence prevention programs. Hochul said he will announce additional measures on Tuesday.

She is likely to have a groundswell of Democrats behind her. Where the party has been sharply divided over changes to bail laws, top officials including New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Attorney General Tish James have come together to combat the violence. navy.

Few of her opponents have explicitly linked the brutal killing to political gain, except for Rep. tom suozzi, who is challenging Hochul in the Democratic primary. Suozzi tweeted moments after reports of the shooting that he and his running mate, former Brooklyn City Councilwoman Diana Reyna, were near the scene.

“@Reyna4NY and I are in Buffalo right now, @KathyHochul’s hometown. Multiple people were shot and killed at an East Side @TopsMarkets supermarket. Hochul refuses to make crime fighting a priority. I will.”

He drew widespread criticism online, including from other elected Democrats. “You are just as bad as MAGA Republicans spouting hate who can’t see past their own fat egos for an ounce of dignity,” said state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi. responded with a tweet of his own. “Have a little respect for the moment, for the families, for the Buffalo community.”

Asked if he endorsed Saturday’s tweet, Suozzi, in a statement, doubled down, noting Hochul’s endorsement by the NRA during his brief stint in Congress and saying he would address the issue “not with promises.” complacent but with real. leadership to really address our gun crisis and the curse of racism and hate.”

Hochul’s campaign declined to comment in response.

The dual devastation of gun violence and the racist shooting conspiracy is set to directly influence elections throughout 2022, as politicians seek both solutions and blame.

Republicans are pushing back against the idea that tougher gun laws would help, pointing out that the SAFE Act has already installed some of the toughest gun control laws in the country, which apparently didn’t deter the shooter.

“Of course it didn’t work. So we knew it wasn’t going to work,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino said of the SAFE Act in an interview. “All it has done is potentially criminalize good New Yorkers who have passed background checks to get a gun.”

He, and many in the party, say Democrats are to blame for passing criminal justice reforms that he believes eased punishment for crime, including gun crime. Recent changes to toughen the state’s bail laws, first installed in 2019, didn’t go far enough to keep felons behind bars.

The former Westchester County executive denied knowledge of the “great replacement theory,” a far-right conspiracy that suggests a liberal plot to diminish white influence, and reportedly toyed with the ideology of the shooters.

The sentiment is particularly pronounced in the rhetoric of the upstate representative. Elise Stefanik, the House Republican in third place. His campaign committee published an ad last year that said “radical Democrats” were planning a “permanent electoral insurrection” by granting amnesty to undocumented immigrants that would create a permanent liberal majority. Stefanik and his office have denied making racist comments.

A recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll suggests the theory is widespread: 1 in 3 Americans believe immigrants are brought to the country for political gain.

Astorino said he had not heard of the replacement theory and rejects the “assumption or assertion by some” that it has become mainstream within the party. “In both parties you have fringe and extremist elements, and that doesn’t speak for the vast majority of people. Period,” Astorino said.

Meanwhile, the Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldina Republican gubernatorial candidate backed by state party leaders quickly called on New York to reinstitute the death penalty.

“The Buffalo tragedy is a brutal reminder of the raw and violent hatred that is on the rise in New York,” Zeldin said in a statement.

Some New York Democrats said the alleged shooter’s racist motivations should not be ignored or written off as an election-year outlier.

“There is a lot of strange fruit on the white supremacist tree, and if you come to our community and ask for our vote in the next few months and you don’t have an ax to chop down that tree, don’t come,” the senator declared. Zellnor Myrie (D-Brooklyn) warned during a rally at the state Capitol on Monday.

Stewart-Cousins ​​urged members of both parties to avoid politicizing the shooting without offering legitimate solutions.

“We know that it has been used as a political issue,” Stewart-Cousins ​​said. “And it’s been kind of a mantra: Crime is up and it’s [Democrats’] fault. Like I said, we have a responsibility to look at the whole picture, and as long as you can tell people, ‘This is the problem, you should be scared, vote for me,’ that doesn’t give us an answer.”

Ben Oakley
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