BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Members of the House and Senate are heading back to Washington to potentially vote on a new set of gun reform laws. Before traveling back to the Capitol, however, Rep. Brian Higgins and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand were in Buffalo. Both said there needs to be stronger gun laws to prevent future mass shootings.
“If you want to stop killing, you got to stop the killer, and you and take that very powerful weapon,” Rep. Higgins said Monday.
Two bipartisan committees are working on new gun legislation that could include expanded background checks, additional mental health resources, strengthening Red Flag laws, and/or a ban on certain weapons. These conversations come in the wake of several mass shootings, including the racially motivated attack at the Tops on Jefferson Ave. that killed 10 people and injured three others. There have been other mass shootings since the Tops attack, including one at an elementary school in Texas that killed 19 students and two teachers.
Sen. Gillibrand said that assault weapons are weapons of war, that military members spend years training in order to use them in combat.
“They’re designed solely for one thing: to win wars,” Sen. Gillibrand said. “They should never be used by civilians, period.”
In order for new gun legislation to pass, leaders say they need to find common ground — and the margin for that is paper thin.
“The common ground is very small. It’s maybe some changes to Red Flag laws,” Sen. Gillibrand added. “Some restrictions on who gets to buy assault weapons, maybe. A little improvement to background checks. Maybe a gun trafficking bill.”
She continued to explain that stricter measures, like banning assault weapons outright, is unlikely because of the filibuster.
“If we are actually serious about finding common ground and finding consensus, those sorts of things will stand no chance of passing the Senate,” Sen. John Cornyn said on the Senate floor.
Sen. Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, questions strict gun laws and says those are unlikely to pass.
“Strengthening mental health, bolstering school security, keeping guns out of the hands of people who are already legally prohibited from having them,” Sen. Cornyn said. “I think a lot of our colleagues could get behind those provisions.”
Democrats disagree, and say just strengthening Red Flag laws will not solve the problem.
“The problem is, in this case in Buffalo, didn’t work. There was an incident last year. That should have been a red flag,” Rep. Higgins said.
As lawmakers continue to negotiate, the local business community in Western New York is standing up and calling for Congress to renew the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. This ban prevented the sale of semi-automatic weapons, such as an AR-15, which was used in both the shooting at Tops and in Uvalde, TX.
“While gun control may not be a typical lane for chambers of commerce, there is no avoiding the impact gun violence is having on our country and on our communities,” Dottie Gallagher, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, said. “We have an obligation to be part of solving this American problem,”
Several people from Buffalo are making the trip to the nation’s Capitol to testify before both the Senate and the House, including Former Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield, the son of Ruth Whitfield who was killed at Tops, Zeneta Everhart, the mother of Zaire Goodman, who was injured, but survived the attack, and Buffalo Police Commissioner Joe Gramaglia.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.