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Preventing Tragedies Like the Buffalo Mass Shooting

The warning signs and policies that can save lives

Newtown, CT — This weekend, an 18-year-old white supremacist, driven by his racist, anti-immigrant, and antisemitic beliefs, murdered 10 and wounded three while live-streaming his mass shooting spree inside and outside of a Buffalo, New York supermarket. 11 of the people shot were Black. The shooter drove more than 200 miles to complete the attack, targeting the community for its racial profile.

As the investigation continues, several key warning signs have emerged that preceded the attack:

  • The shooter was evaluated by mental health professionals after threatening a school shooting at his high school last year 
  • As a self-declared white supremacist, the shooter published a 180-page racist, anti-immigrant, and antisemitic manifesto declaring his desire to “purge the U.S.” of all people of color.
  • He posted a detailed plan and to-do list for the attack to an online community – including plans to continue mass murder after the grocery store

Taken individually, warning signs may not directly correlate to a mass shooting, but those exhibited by the Buffalo shooter point to someone driven by hateful ideologies, who may be unable to manage strong emotions, and at risk of harming themselves or others. Warning signs like those must be taken seriously with immediate action to get help.

Reversing the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our nation requires a holistic approach that combines (1) community awareness of warning signs and how to effectively intervene, (2) research on root causes and effective upstream prevention strategies, and (3) sensible gun safety policy.

Gun violence is a public health epidemic and no community is immune. Prevention should not be a partisan issue. Proven, evidence-based policies that help prevent mass murder like what happened in Buffalo include:

Extreme Risk Protection Orders 

Many states offer families the option of temporarily transferring firearms from persons who may be in crisis.  Policies like this (aka “red flag,” ERPOs, or Crisis Aversion and Rights Retention laws) help prevent gun violence and suicide while protecting an individual’s 2nd Amendment rights. It is critical that states that have these in place – like New York – invest in ensuring communities know when and how to use this vital, life-safety tool.

Assault Weapons and High-Capacity Magazine Limits

Because there are currently no federal restrictions on the sale of military-style assault rifles nor on the number of rounds they can fire, civilians have been able to purchase these guns to carry out our nation’s deadliest mass shootings. The Sandy Hook shooter fired 154 bullets, killing 20 first-graders and six educators in less than five minutes.

Expanded Background Checks

Closing the Violent Hate Crimes Loophole (among others) in our background checks system would prohibit the sale of firearms to individuals who have been convicted of threatening others with a deadly weapon or assaulting someone based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

Gun violence is not inevitable. It is preventable. Know the signs. Say something. And demand our leaders take action now to advance policies that make our schools, homes, and communities safer.


About the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund: The Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization committed to protecting all children from gun violence in schools, homes, and communities. The SHP Action Fund advances a holistic policy platform that promotes gun safety, youth mental health, and violence prevention education. The organization works at the state and federal level to pass nonpartisan legislation through inclusive partnerships, diverse grassroots education, and community mobilization. It is part of Sandy Hook Promise, founded and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.

Media Contact: 

Aimee Thunberg | [email protected] | 646.761.5579