WASHINGTON, D.C. (WIVB) — “It is often said that a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Reform Wednesday. “[Security guard Aaron Salter] was the good guy and was no match for what he went up against: a legal AR-15 with multiple high-capacity magazines. He had no chance.”

Commissioner Gramaglia’s testimony came as part of the continued hearings on “The Urgent Need to Address the Gun Violence Epidemic” the committee is holding. Witnesses in the hearings have included those close to the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y. and Uvalde, Texas, among others.

In his testimony Wednesday, Commissioner Gramaglia spoke on the Tops shooting suspect’s planning and execution of the May 14 white supremacist massacre, the BPD’s response to the scene and the need for laws to ensure a similar incident doesn’t happen again.

He recounted the heroism of retired BPD officer and Tops security guard Aaron Salter on the day of the attack.

“Aaron was helping an elderly shopper with her groceries when the shooting began,” Gramaglia said. “He did his best to warn customers while in a completely defensive position. He engaged the shooter as he entered, hitting him with at least one shot.”

Commissioner Gramaglia walked the committee through the suspect’s process prior to the attack.

“He legally purchased a military-style weapon and body armor, and then spent months practicing his shooting skills,” the commissioner said. “He entered the Tops supermarket and opened fire on civilians, striking 13 and killing 10. He live-streamed this with a GoPro he had affixed to his helmet. Retired Buffalo Police officer Aaron Salter, Jr., who I posthumously promoted to lieutenant and issued the department’s highest honor — the Medal of Honor — was working Tops security that day.”

Gramaglia also discussed the types of weapons used in the recent attacks.

“Assault weapons like the AR-15 are known for three things: how many rounds they fire, the speed at which they fire those rounds and body count,” he said. “This radicalized 18-year-old adult should have never been able to have access to the weapons he used to perpetrate this attack and the laws need to be enacted to ensure it never happens again.”

He cited the firearms violence policy adopted by the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA) in 2018 to help mitigate the threat of gun violence, while not infringing on constitutional rights or weakening due process. According to Gramaglia, these reforms include:

  • Requiring universal background checks
  • Strengthening NICS definitions and improving access to records
  • Supporting the use of extreme risk protection orders
  • Aggressively prosecuting straw purchasers and prohibited possessors
  • Banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines

“Polling shows a majority of Americans support these common sense reforms,” Commissioner Gramaglia said. “And Congress must act immediately to close the loopholes in our current system, and the gaps that allow easy access to military-style weapons.”

In his opening remarks, Gramaglia spoke on the effect the Tops massacre had on the Buffalo community.

“Our communities are hurting and we must continue to support them, the loved ones of the victims and our brave first responders. On May 14, 2022, an 18-year-old white supremacist invaded our city and inflicted terror on the Black community in a way never seen in Buffalo’s history.”

He later continued this sentiment, saying how other mass shootings have similarly affected the respective communities they have taken place in. Additionally, he out how, in addition to mass shootings, everyday gun violence remains a problem in America.

“Events like the Buffalo massacre, the shooting in Uvalde that took 21 lives, including 19 children, and the mass shootings in Laguna Woods and Tulsa are the situations that capture headlines, however, we must remember the gun violence epidemic extends well beyond these events.”

The commissioner said shootings have become a daily occurrence in America’s cities and lawmakers must do more to account for new threats.

“Emerging trends like ghost guns and guns modified with switches continue to pose a challenge for law enforcement. Congress must update our laws to account for these new threats and carnage that has accompanied them.”

He said it will be nearly impossible to address the gun violence epidemic without addressing the underlying violent crime problem, saying additional resources are needed to assist with proactive policing, as well as respond to violent crime. He also demanded action from district attorneys in some major cities, saying lack of accountability for violent offenders has contributed to the rise

“In some major cities, DAs are not prosecuting serial firearm offenders and judges continue to release offenders on low or no bond. To address these challenges, Congress must provide resources for U.S. Attorneys’ offices to support additional federal prosecutions as appropriate.”

With regard to the Tops massacre, Gramaglia said Buffalo will heal together, but lawmakers need to make changes to the system to prevent mass shootings from continuing to occur in American communities.

“Buffalo is known as the ‘City of Good Neighbors.’ We are a resilient, culturally diverse community. We came together after this horrific tragedy and we will continue to heal together,” he added. “However, no city should have to go through this. And it is time to make changes to a system that is leaving blood on the sidewalks of our communities every day.”

The commissioner also gave thanks to the Buffalo Police Department, speaking on their response to the shooting in Buffalo, where the shooter was brought into custody in a matter of minutes. He commended responding officers for their swift action and handling of the situation.

“I have no doubt in my mind that their swift response time and handling of the situation saved lives,” Gramaglia said. “I would like to publicly thank them and the rest of the Buffalo Police Department for the heroism they showed on that day.”

Gramaglia’s testimony can be viewed at this link.

Adam Duke is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of his work here.