US shaken by racist mass shooting, weekend of gun violence

US shaken by racist mass shooting, weekend of gun violence

Mourners gather near a Tops Grocery store in Buffalo, New York, on May 15, 2022.
Mourners gather near a Tops Grocery store in Buffalo, New York, on May 15, 2022.

NEW YORK - The racist mass shooting at a supermarket in New York state dominated a bloody weekend of gun violence across the United States, a scourge that has increased since the pandemic began.

While the murder of 10 Black people by an alleged 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 five others wounded in a shooting Sunday near Los Angeles, where a Chinese immigrant padlocked a church and opened fire on its Taiwanese American congregation in an apparent hate attack.

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.

At least 33 people were shot, five fatally, in Chicago while another five were killed in separate shootings in St. Louis, Missouri.

And the Milwaukee Bucks canceled a party after 20 people were wounded in shootings outside their arena Friday.

"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 motivated by racial hatred.

Under pressure to clamp down on the violence, President Joe Biden will visit Buffalo on Tuesday to "grieve with the community that lost 10 lives in a senseless and horrific mass shooting."

On the eve of Biden's visit, officials released more details about 18-year-old suspect Payton Gendron.

They say he drove more than 200 miles (322 kilometers) from his home to the predominantly Black area surrounding Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo to kill as many African Americans as he could.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told reporters that Gendron had scoped out the site in March.

"There was evidence that was uncovered that he had plans, had he gotten out of here, to continue his rampage and continue shooting people. He'd even spoken about possibly going to another store," Gramaglia earlier told CNN.

Wearing heavy body armor and wielding an AR-15 assault rifle, Gendron 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 pleaded not guilty Saturday to a single count of first-degree murder. He is on suicide watch in detention.

The tragedy 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.

"The killings are being investigated as a racist hate crime," said the Erie County district attorney, John Flynn.

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