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Investigative Report on the role of online platforms in the tragic mass shooting in Buffalo on May 14, 2022

Office of the New York State Attorney General Letitia James, October 18, 2022: “The mass shooting in and around the Tops grocery store in Buffalo, New York on May 14, 2022 that claimed the lives of ten individuals and injured three others was all the more horrific because of the white supremacist ideological motivation that fueled it and the shooter’s meticulous planning. The disturbing reality is that this attack is part of an epidemic of mass shootings often perpetrated by young men radicalized online by an ideology of hate. This report details what my office has learned about how the Buffalo shooter was first indoctrinated and radicalized through online platforms, and how he used these and other platforms to plan, implement, and promote these acts of terror. The report assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the response of various online platforms in the wake of the Buffalo shooting. Readers should be cautioned that this report contains graphic textual descriptions of bigotry and violence, including quotes from the shooter’s own writing that, in our opinion, are necessary to contextualize and explain this story. No discussion of the Buffalo shooting can ignore the pressing need for stronger gun laws, as I have called for several times. New York has been at the forefront of enacting state-wide laws to protect its residents from gun violence, but the national problem of gun violence demands national solutions and federal partnership. This should include repeal of existing federal laws that protect firearms manufacturers from liability, reduce transparency into gun sales, and inhibit effective law enforcement; implementation of universal federal background checks and state-wide background checks for ammunition purchases; institution of a federal assault weapons ban; the use of federal extreme risk protection orders; closure of the so-called Charleston Loophole allowing guns to be sold if the FBI does not complete a background check within three days; universal law enforcement data-sharing; stronger regulation of imitation guns; the large-scale expansion of public health and violence-interruption funding; and significantly increased funding for both the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the oversight of gun dealers. Each of these actions will help reduce the amount of gun violence and unnecessary gun-related death and injury in New York and around the country…”

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