The Reload Analysis Newsletter

Members’ Newsletter: What Will Come From the Buffalo Shooting?

We’ve seen the initial reactions to the horrible attack which left ten Black Americans dead at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York last weekend. But how will these reactions affect gun policy moving forward?

Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman looks at the prospects of new gun-control laws coming out of this. He says there’s reason to think it will on one level and won’t on another.

I look at how the shooter never should have been able to get his gun in the first place. He displayed enough warning signs that he could have been involuntarily committed or red-flagged. He isn’t the only mass shooter who slipped through the cracks, though.

David French also joins the podcast to talk about red flag laws and why he believes New York’s would have worked if it was used and why more places should not only adopt them but make sure people know how to use them. He also responds to common critiques of red flag laws.

Plus, I went to the range this weekend and got to try out a couple of guns I haven’t shot before. So, check out that little update at the end too.


Guns for sale at a Virginia gun store
Guns for sale at a Virginia gun store / Stephen Gutowski

Analysis: Will the Buffalo Massacre Lead to New Gun Laws? [Member Exclusive]
By Jake Fogleman

Public opinion has been on a years-long shift away from support for new gun-control laws, but high-profile mass shootings have a way of putting a stop to that historically.

Will the status quo change after the attack in Buffalo? And if so, will there be new momentum to pass new gun control?

Initial polling on the question of gun control following the shooting has yielded conflicting results. Reactions from the immediate aftermath of a tragedy may not be the most reliable indicator of longer-term trends in any event.

Nevertheless, a political push has begun on gun control both at the state and federal level. The prospects of success for those advocating new laws vary widely between the two levels of government.

In New York, the formerly NRA-backed Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul left no illusion as to her current stance on gun control. She announced on Wednesday her “comprehensive plan to combat domestic terrorism and prevent gun violence” that included a signed executive order requiring the New York State Police to issue Extreme Risk Protection Orders when they encounter an individual they have probable cause to believe may be a threat.

She also announced that she was working with the state legislature to pass three new gun control bills that would expand the state’s “assault weapon” ban. She wants to include more semi-automatic rifles, require all state law enforcement agencies to report recovered “crime guns” within 24 hours, and require microstamping technology on all semi-automatic pistols sold in the state.

Despite already having some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, and despite the fact that none of these new proposals are particularly responsive to the failures that led to the Buffalo shooting, the political landscape of the heavily Democratic state means her push will likely succeed.

At the federal level, the story is a bit different. President Joe Biden called for a federal “assault weapon” ban during his visit to Buffalo this week. But gun control did not feature heavily in his remarks. He has since largely demurred on the prospects of new federal action on guns.

“Not much on executive action,” Biden told reporters when asked if he was considering additional gun-control executive orders. “I’ve got to convince the Congress that we should go back to what I passed years ago. It’s going to be very difficult. Very difficult.”

“We have enough laws on the books to deal with what’s going on now,” he added. “We just have to deal with it.”

Senators Cory Booker (D.-NJ), Bob Menendez (D.-NJ), and Richard Blumenthal (D.-Conn.) introduced a sweeping new gun control bill on Thursday, according to Politico.  The bill would make it a requirement to obtain a federally issued license from the Department of Justice before a person could purchase and own a firearm.

According to the text of the bill, requirements to obtain the license would include passing both a written and live-fire gun safety test, a criminal background check with fingerprinting, and proof of identity. Additionally, a person would have to be 21-years-old to obtain a permit and must submit the make, model, and serial number of the firearm they intend to purchase as well as their identity—creating a de facto registry as well as a de facto ban on gun ownership of 18–20-year-olds. The license would only be valid for one firearm at a time.

“This is the moment to enact ambitious legislation – as a nation, we must rise to it, or we are fated to witness the deadly scenes of this past weekend and years past over again,” Senator Booker told Politico in a statement.

While the legislation is certainly aggressive, it is also dead on arrival. The Democrat-controlled Senate has been unwilling to move even a universal background check bill that passed the House over a year ago. Since then, the political environment has only gotten more precarious for Democrats with the 2022 midterm elections drawing nearer. A massive expansion of federal power over regulating gun sales that would create a de facto federal gun registry is clearly a political non-starter at the moment.

So, in a sense, it seems the political status quo around gun control is unlikely to shift. Deep blue states like New York, where gun control already plays well politically, could rush to pass new laws whether or not they address the enabling factors in the Buffalo shooting. And at the federal level, the stalemate will almost certainly continue.


Podcast: David French on Red Flag Laws in the Wake of the Buffalo Massacre [Member Early Access]
By Stephen Gutowski

David French has long advocated for the adoption of red flag laws to prevent mass shootings. In the wake of the Buffalo shooting, where an unused red flag law may have stopped that massacre, he seemed like a good person to discuss the policy’s advantages and drawbacks.

French argued red flag laws, otherwise known as Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO), provide a kind of stopgap between releasing somebody who is troubled and going through the more complex process of involuntarily committing them. He said they provide a way to intervene with somebody who has demonstrated they are a risk to themselves or others. The Buffalo shooter would have met that standard and been barred from buying the gun he used to carry out his attack had anybody filed for an ERPO against him, French said.

He argued lack of knowledge about how the laws work was likely the reason why it wasn’t used in this case and said the governor’s call for mandatory police training on New York’s red flag law. However, he opposes her plan to require all police file for ERPOs on the basis of probable cause.

French said he wants to see a higher level of scrutiny, like clear and convincing evidence, and a faster turnaround for a hearing with the person subject to the order than the 10 days New York current uses as its standard. But he said the due process concerns many gun-rights advocates have raised around ERPOs are ones that can be addressed and the core of the policy makes sense.

However, he said President Joe Biden’s call for a national “assault weapons” ban in response to Buffalo does not make sense. French argued that not only was the previous federal ban ineffective but the guns they target, such as the AR-15, are far more popular today than they were at the time. He further said AR-15s are not the most common guns used in mass shootings and are very uncommonly used in crime overall.

Plus, Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman and I look at the gun industry’s latest effort in Ukraine as well as an ATF report on the industry’s huge growth in recent years.

You can listen to the show on your favorite podcasting app or by clicking here.

You can also watch the full episode on our YouTube channel.


Police inspect a crime scene
Police inspect a crime scene / Photo by Campbell Jensen on Unsplash

Analysis: Buffalo Massacre Was Another Shooting That Should Have Been Prevented Under Current Law [Member Exclusive]
By Stephen Gutowski

The Buffalo shooter should not have been able to buy the gun he used.

Somebody should have stepped in to stop him be it his parents, school administrators, or the police. The signs were there. The flags were bright red. The laws were in place.

Nobody took the steps that would have made it illegal for him to buy or own guns. And he isn’t alone. This story has been repeated over and over again.

The accused Buffalo shooter, who is 18-years-old, told a teacher he wanted to commit suicide and murder when asked what he planned to do after school ended, according to New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D.). The threat was considered serious enough that he was taken by police for a psychological evaluation.

Had he been involuntarily committed over the threats, he would have become prohibited from buying or owning guns under federal law. That didn’t happen.

Had somebody filed a red flag order, he could have been prevented from legally buying or owning guns for up to a year under current New York law. His family, police, or school officials could have done it. That didn’t happen either.

Instead, a few months after being evaluated and released he bought the New York legal AR-15 he would later use to murder ten people and shoot another three.

The Parkland shooter had a similar story. He had a long history of making violent threats, including threats of shooting up a school. He had a history of mental illness and had attempted to kill himself. He also had a history of domestic abuse towards his mother. He could have been involuntarily committed under state law or convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor. But he wasn’t.

Instead, he was allowed to legally buy the gun he used to murder 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The same can be said for the Aurora theater shooter. After seeking out help for social anxiety, the Aurora shooter told a social worker he had homicidal thoughts. He was then seen by a University of Colorado psychiatrist where he again expressed a desire to kill people.

However, despite reaching out to the shooter’s family with concerns and reportedly receiving an offer from law enforcement to place him under a mental health hold, the psychiatrist decided there was not a specific enough threat to justify an involuntary commitment.

That doesn’t mean there are easy answers for how to prevent these kinds of attacks. Red flag laws and involuntary commitment aren’t foolproof solutions. They are deeply complex.

There are, of course, significant due process concerns. Some states require a very low level of proof for red-flag orders and seizing firearms implicates a Constitutional right. And involuntary commitment has a dark history that has necessitated restrictions on its use, making the process difficult to use.

Also, the Buffalo shooter illegally modified his AR. He did so knowing what he was doing was illegal. And, obviously, he went on to commit dozens of heinous crimes with that gun.

So, it is possible he would have found a way to illegally obtain a gun had he been prohibited or under a red flag order.

Additionally, it would be impractical and immoral to just commit or red flag everyone who has a mental health episode. Each individual situation is different and the outcome is not always easy to predict except in hindsight.

But it remains deeply concerning how often this fact pattern plays out. So many of these shootings could have and should have been prevented under current law.


A lane at a Virginia gun range in May 2022
A lane at a Virginia gun range in May 2022 / Stephen Gutowski

Range Time

On Friday, I was able to get to the range with friend and Reload member Nick Fondacaro which was a lot of fun. He brought some of his newest guns. That included a Springfield Helion, a bullpup rifle new to the market.

It’s one of the better bullpups I’ve shot. It’s completely ambidextrous and takes AR mags as well as AR grips. It even has an M-LOK foregrip.

So, definitely pretty great as far as bullpups go. But it is still a bullpup. It’s not for everybody.

The rest of our little range adventure turned out to be very Sig heavy. I brought my Sig P320 X-Five with the white grip module. People on Twitter have taken to calling it the Stormtrooper gun. And, hey, that’s not a bad look.

It shoots a lot better than a Stormtrooper, though. Here are my first 20 round at 7 yards after not having shoot in a few weeks.

Not a bad group.

Nick brought his own P320. He has an AXG Scorpion. Pretty fancy!

I really like the sights on this one. The front sight is bigger and more eye-catching than on my X-Five. It’s a nice little shooter too. I still prefer the X-Five overall, though.

Nick was also nice enough to let me shoot his P365 XL with a Romeo Zero Elite red dot.

 

 

Once we got the red dot dialed in properly, it was a breeze to hit shots. It definitely makes me want to put a nice red dot on my X-Five too. Plus, I think the P365 XL is probably going to be my next carry gun.


That’s it for now.

I’ll talk to you all again soon.

Thanks,
Stephen Gutowski
Founder
The Reload

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