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Guns

Police outside Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, on May 14, 2022

By Steve Gorman and Moira Warburton

(Reuters) -An 18-year-old white gunman shot 10 people to death and wounded three others at a grocery store in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York, before surrendering to authorities, who called it a hate crime and an act of "racially motivated violent extremism."

Authorities said the suspect, who was armed with an assault-style rifle and appeared to have acted alone, drove to Buffalo from his home in a New York county "hours away" to target the store in an attack he broadcast on the internet. Eleven of the 13 people struck by gunfire were Black, officials said.

The suspect, who was not immediately named by police, was heavily armed and dressed in tactical gear, including body armor, police said.

When confronted by officers in a vestibule of the store, the suspect held a gun to his own neck but they talked him into dropping the weapon and surrendering, Buffalo police commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told a news briefing.

Gramaglia said the gunman shot and killed three people in the parking lot of the Tops Friendly Market before exchanging fire with a former police officer working as a security guard for the store, but the suspect was protected by his body armor.

The guard was one of the 10 people shot to death in the incident, the nine others all being customers. Three other employees of the store, part of a regional chain, were wounded but are expected to survive, authorities said.

Stephen Belongia, the FBI special agent in charge of the bureau's Buffalo field office, said the attack would be investigated both as a hate crime and as an act of "racially motivated violent extremism" under federal law.

Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League said, "While details of the horrific shooting in Buffalo are still emerging, there are already strong indicators that the individual who allegedly carried out this attack was heavily influenced by white supremacist ideology, including the virulently anti-Semitic and racist 'Great Replacement' conspiracy theory. Make no mistake: This is the same hateful anti-Semitic bile that inspired the shooters in Pittsburgh, Poway, El Paso and Charleston."

"This person was pure evil," Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said, his voice quaking with emotion. "It was a straight-up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community."

The suspect was expected to make his first court appearance to face murder charges by day's end, officials said.

"This is a day of great pain for our community," Buffalo Mayor Bryon Brown told reporters. "Many of us have been in and out of this supermarket many times. ... We cannot let this hateful person divide our community or our country."

Brown said he had received calls from the White House and New York's attorney general, Letitia James.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the "horrific shooting."

Biden "will continue to receive updates throughout the evening and tomorrow as further information develops. The president and the first lady are praying for those who have been lost and for their loved ones," Jean-Pierre added.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the senior US senator from New York, said in a tweet: "We are standing with the people of Buffalo."

The governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, also tweeted that she was monitoring the situation, and asked people in Buffalo to "avoid the area and follow guidance from law enforcement and local officials."Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the attack appeared to be the work of a violent white supremacist.

"We must pass the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, without delay," he wrote on Twitter.

Last month, a "sniper-type" shooter opened fire in an upscale Washington neighborhood, wounding four people before taking his own life.

Police suspected that graphic video of that shooting which circulated online shortly afterward was filmed by the shooter himself, but have not confirmed the authenticity or if it was live-streamed.

Despite recurring mass-casualty shootings and a nationwide wave of gun violence, multiple initiatives to reform gun regulations have failed in the US Congress, leaving states and localities to enact their own restrictions.

The United States suffered 19,350 firearm homicides in 2020, up nearly 35 percent as compared to 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in its latest data.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, Pete Schroeder and Moira Warburton in Washington; editing by Daniel Wallis)

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Gov. Ron DeSantis

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Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed on April 29 that the state would "one day" have a permitless weapons carry law. "I'm pretty sure we can get it signed into law," he said during a news conference in the town of Williston, near Gainesville.

According to the Florida Phoenix, DeSantis said, "The legislature will get it done. I can't tell you if it's going to be next week, six months, but I can tell you that before I am done as governor, we will have a signature on that bill."

Permitless carry laws allow individuals to carry loaded, concealed handguns without a permit, background check, or firearms training. The Center for American Progress says in an FAQ on its website:

These laws reflect a relatively recent trend in which states are removing or weakening permitting standards for concealed carry.

On April 12, 2022, Georgia became the 25th state to enact legislation eliminating permit requirements for concealed carry and the 21st state to do so in the past seven years. Similar bills are pending in at least five state legislatures.

This movement toward permitless carry represents a massive step back for public safety and responsible gun ownership.

Under current Florida law, gun owners must be licensed, and the process of obtaining a permit includes required written proof of competency with a firearm.

In a report published in September 2021, the Center for American Progress noted that in Wisconsin, which in 2011 enacted a law allowing the concealed carrying of weapons after a permit to do so has been obtained, "an analysis of publicly available data from local agencies, the FBI, and other national databases suggests that the CCW law has led to negative consequences for safety in the state.

Three categories of violent gun-related crime have increased since its implementation: gun homicides, aggravated assaults that involve a gun, and gun-related homicides and assaults against law enforcement officers." The report concludes that "the overwhelming evidence out of Wisconsin is an important case study for why CCW laws are detrimental to public safety and why continued action on gun violence prevention remains critical."

CAP also found that "when Arizona repealed its concealed carry requirement in 2010, there was an 11 percent increase in gun injuries and deaths and a 24 percent increase in the probability that an individual involved in a violent crime would be fatally shot."

DeSantis, who is running for reelection, is pursuing a far-right political agenda that includes a host of bills affecting civil rights, including voter suppression and LGBTQ+ issues. In an op-ed published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel in March, historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat referred to the state as a "laboratory for autocracy," echoing the title of author and politician David Pepper's book "Laboratories of Autocracy," in which he argues that anti-democratic measures that threaten the U.S. system of government originate more and more in statehouses, not in the Congress.

Under Florida law, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is responsible for issuing concealed carry licenses. Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried said in a statement on her website about DeSantis' vow to eliminate gun licenses:

This is absurd political pandering from the Governor of a state that has experienced some of the worst mass shootings in our country’s history and in a nation where we have the highest rates of gun violence in the world. It’s an insult the memories and families of every victim of gun violence. We should be passing laws to prevent gun violence and working to fix our state’s affordable housing crisis, not creating chaos to score political points.

Fried is one of six Democratic candidates hoping to win their party's nomination for governor in the November midterms. DeSantis faces challenger Joseph Mercadante in the Republican primary.

Fred Guttenberg voiced outrage at DeSantis' announcement over the weekend:

I have questions for @GovRonDeSantis from his announcement yesterday. With permitless open carry, how am I supposed to know who intends to kill. For example, how can I differentiate the intent of Ron DeSantis as opposed to a murderer like my daughter's killer? How will I know who intends to use the guns to kill verse those like you who only want to politicize that possibility? There is no way to know.

Guttenberg's daughter Jaime was shot to death on February 14, 2018, when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and wounding a further 17, in the deadliest high school shooting in the United States to date.

Florida ranks second in the number of mass shootings in any state since 1982, behind only California.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.