Mourners gather near a Tops Grocery store in Buffalo, New York, on May 15, 2022 – Copyright AFP –
The racist mass shooting at a supermarket in upstate New York dominated a bloody weekend of gun violence across the United States, a scourge that has increased since the pandemic began.
While the murder of ten Black people by a white supremacist teenager in Buffalo captured news headlines, smaller incidents elsewhere embodied how common public shootings have become in America.
One person was killed and four others wounded after a shooting at a church near Los Angeles on Sunday while the Milwaukee Bucks canceled a party after 20 people were wounded in shootings outside their arena Friday.
More than 45,000 Americans died from guns — slightly over half by suicide — in 2021, up from just over 39,000 in 2019, according to the Gun Violence Archive website.
As of May 16, some 7,000 people have already died from homicide shootings or unintentional gunshots in the United States this year, with shootings in public places an almost daily occurrence.
There have been 202 mass shootings, defined as an incident in which four or more people are injured or killed, already in 2022, according to the archive.
Experts say the rise in gun crime is being fueled by social dislocation caused by the pandemic and the proliferation of so-called “ghost guns” which can be assembled at home and are virtually impossible to trace.
“Unless the United States really works on getting a consistent process in place to regulate, license and monitor gun ownership, you’re going to continue to have these types of incidents and they will increase,” Keith Taylor, a gun violence expert at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, told AFP.
Also this past weekend, two people were killed and three injured when a gunfight broke out at a flea market in Houston, Texas, on Sunday.
“One weekend in America,” tweeted New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, before listing the weekend’s spate of shootings.
“It is well past time for outrage and action. It is well past time for Congress to step up and pass real nationwide gun safety legislation,” he wrote.
– ‘Hate crime’ –
But facing a powerful pro-gun lobby, past congressional efforts at tightening the nation’s gun laws have generally fallen short — even after horrific shootings.
Under pressure to clamp down on the violence, President Joe Biden will visit Buffalo on Tuesday to “grieve with the community that lost ten lives in a senseless and horrific mass shooting.”
Residents in the city have been holding vigils and laying flowers honoring the dead since Sunday.
Eighteen-year-old suspect Payton Gendron drove more than 200 miles (322 kilometers) from his home to the predominantly Black area surrounding Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo with the “express purpose of taking as many Black lives as he possibly could,” officials say.
Wearing heavy body armor and wielding an AR-15 assault rifle, he livestreamed the shooting on Twitch before the site removed it within two minutes.
Media reports linked the shooter to a 180-page manifesto that described a white supremacist ideology and laid out a plan to target a mainly Black neighborhood.
Gendron was charged late Saturday on a single count of first-degree murder and held without bail.
“The killings are being investigated as a racist hate crime,” said the Erie County district attorney, John Flynn.
The incident evoked memories of recent US history’s most devastating attacks, including a white man’s 2015 massacre of nine worshippers in a predominantly Black South Carolina church, and the 2019 attack by a white man in Texas that claimed 23 lives, most of them Latino.