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Legal Elements of the Buffalo, NY Mass Shooting

Chicago residents are no strangers to gunfire, but this particular mass shooting was a targeted attack on a predominantly Black neighborhood in one of Buffalo’s East Side neighborhoods. The shooter traveled halfway across the state from a small rural upstate town to commit the murder. He researched which area was most likely to contain the most Black people and murdered eight Black people and two white people, all told.

In this case, a federal background check was conducted on the shooter prior to his purchase of an AR-15 in January of this year. Similar failures occurred in the Nikolas Cruz case, the killer who used an AR-15 to shoot up a Parkland high school. In the latter case, the federal government was sued for failing to intervene and for negligently issuing a permit to a deranged psychopath, but the lawsuit was dismissed.

Which Laws Failed?

There were several in this case. We have already mentioned the background check requirements, but let’s go into more detail. This particular student was throwing up red flags and had been taken to the hospital for an evaluation after he “joked” about shooting up his graduation. Nonetheless, this was not enough to prevent the shooter from purchasing a gun. Why not? Well, in order to deny a gun permit, the government needs a better reason. For example, had the shooter been deemed a danger to himself or others and then adjudicated by a court to a psychiatric facility, then the background check would have prevented the shooter from acquiring the gun.

Second, New York State’s SAFE Act prevents guns from being sold in the state with “high capacity” magazines. Instead of detachable magazines, the guns are fitted with welded-on magazines that allow a maximum capacity of 10 bullets. The shooter “modified” the gun, but it does not take an expert to do this. All he had to do was blowtorch the magazine off and fit a larger magazine to the hardware. 

What Will Happen to the Shooter?

New York state does not have the death penalty, but that will not necessarily save his life. The state will pursue 10 counts of first-degree murder, 13 counts of attempted murder, and tack on hate crime intensifiers plus the weapons charges. The federal government can step in and charge him with some other crime to get the death penalty imposed. They may or may not choose to go this route. In most cases, the federal government needs a reason to step in when the state government is handling a case. While sometimes, state governments will turn cases over to the federal government simply so the people can pursue the death penalty, it is unlikely that NYS will want to turn the case over exclusively on that basis. The shooter would need to face different charges for the federal crimes as well, something like terrorism.

Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you are facing criminal charges in the Chicago area, call David Freidberg office today at (312) 560-7100 and we can begin preparing your defense immediately. 

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