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Buffalo Police Commissioner claims a ‘good guy with a gun’ won’t always stop a shooter

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Police on scene at the Tops Friendly Market on May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, New York, where 10 people were killed in a mass shooting. (John Normile/Getty Images/TNS)


Jerry Zremski

The Buffalo News, N.Y.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia on Wednesday delivered a passionate call for strengthened gun safety laws, saying the Tops market massacre proved that “a good guy with a gun” can’t stop a shooter armed with a high-capacity assault weapon.

Invoking the name of Tops security guard Aaron Salter Jr., one of the 10 people killed in the May 14 mass shooting, Gramaglia told the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that even a retired cop like Salter could not stop a heavily armed gunman protected by body armor.

“It is often said that a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun,” Gramaglia said. “Aaron 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.”

Testifying on behalf of the Major City Chiefs Association, Gramaglia said the group favors a ban on the kinds of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines like those used by the shooter in Buffalo.

“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 needs to be enacted to ensure it never happens again.”

Gramaglia said the big-city police chiefs also want universal background checks for gun purchasers and other improvements to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

In addition, the police chiefs favor improving access to records that will allow authorities to remove guns from people who endanger themselves and others, the Buffalo police commissioner said.

The kind of mass shootings that happened recently in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, are part of a larger problem: a proliferation of guns that leads to recurring violence in American cities, Gramaglia said.

“It is time to make changes to a system that is leaving blood on the sidewalks of our communities every day,” he said.

Later in the hearing, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi — an Illinois Democrat who lived in Buffalo as a child — displayed a recently deleted Twitter ad by Daniel Defense, a Georgia-based manufacturer of AR-15-style weapons.

The ad showed a small child with an assault weapon and quoted the Bible’s Book of Proverbs. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” the ad said.

Krishnamoorthi then asked Gramaglia to comment on that Daniel Defense ad.

“I think that picture behind you is very disturbing,” Gramaglia replied. “Many children in our country, because of a lack of safe storage of weapons, have either accidentally taken their own lives or (killed) somebody else in that household or another friend within that house who was there visiting. It’s disturbing.”

Nevertheless, Republican members of the committee repeatedly challenged witnesses and Democratic lawmakers who called for tougher measures on guns.

Rep. Andrew Clyde, a Georgia Republican, appeared to question Gramaglia’s contention that a “good guy with a gun” can’t always stop a mass shooter.

“Buffalo police officers responded to Tops a minute after receiving the 911 call and were able to take the shooter into custody within a minute of arriving at the scene,” Clyde said. “That’s very impressive.”

Clyde implied that the police officers’ weapons — Glock 40-caliber pistols — were enough to intimidate the shooter, but Gramaglia offered a more nuanced take on the gunman’s surrender.

“We were able to do that because as he exited the store, he had the AR-15 pointed up underneath his chin,” Gramaglia said. “And then through what I thought was very calm de-escalation language, he surrendered his weapon and put it down. If he pointed at the officers, we think we would have a different scenario.”

Clyde then insisted that the police weapons subdued the shooter, but Gramaglia noted that the gunman was protected by military-style body armor, including a tactical helmet. So police shot him once, to no effect.

“It’s all about shot placement, isn’t it?” Clyde asked.

In response, Gramaglia said, in essence, that that depends on the situation.

Gramaglia testified at a hearing on the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas. Zeneta Everhart, whose son, Zaire Goodman, was wounded in the Buffalo shooting, testified earlier in the hearing. She also called on Congress to enact tougher gun safety measures.

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