Buffalo shooting highlights new rise of violent white supremacy, and a demand for action
In the aftermath of the domestic terror attack that took place in a Buffalo supermarket, we’re reminded that hate still has a foothold in this country and in our communities. These senseless acts of violence, borne out of white supremacy, aren’t the result of some outside force. But rather the direct result of our country’s inaction to address hate.
The communities I represent in Maryland have felt this familiar pain. This week, the University of Maryland dedicated a new memorial plaza in honor of Lt. Richard Collins III — a soon-to-be graduate of Bowie State and ROTC candidate. He was a son, a friend, and someone with a bright and promising future ahead of him. Lt. Collins was murdered in an act of hate for the color of his skin.
The factors that led to the senseless murders in Buffalo and the murder of Lt. Collins are longstanding and well known. Extremism is on the rise as isolated individuals and racists spread their lies and toxic ideologies on the internet. These young men are radicalized, indoctrinated, and moved to violent acts. And too often, the perpetrators, like the man in Buffalo, are able to commit such atrocities because our permissive and loophole-ridden patchwork of gun laws allows weapons capable of mass death to get into the wrong hands.
The numbers don’t lie. We need to act with urgency.
In 2020, the FBI reported the highest number of hate crimes in 12 years. Over 60 percent of the victims were targeted because of a racial, ethnic, or ancestral bias. Of those crimes, Black individuals were victims of hate crimes more than any other group.
This year, 57 historically Black colleges and universities and houses of worship received bomb threats. And U.S. police departments across the country indicate a double-digit spike in hate crimes in 2021 and a continued rise into 2022, including a 223.7 percent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, a 58.7 percent rise in anti-Jewish hate crimes, and a 51.3 percent rise in anti-Gay hate crimes.
Guns make this virulent hate even more deadly. According to Everytown, in an average year, over 10,300 hate crimes in the United States involve a firearm—more than 28 each day. Black Americans are too often the victims of these hate-filled attacks, as are trans Americans.
In Congress right now, I have legislation to raise the age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21 years old. Most Americans have to wait until the age of 21 before they can legally buy alcohol, rent a vehicle or gamble. But under federal law, an 18-year-old can walk into a gun store and buy a military-style assault weapon, just like the teenager in Buffalo. Republicans have blocked this legislation.
In Congress right now, I’m preparing to reintroduce legislation to tackle extremism within the ranks of our military. It’s a model that we can adapt to not only identify when individuals are beginning to go down the wrong path but also ensure proper intervention before violence occurs. Republicans last year blocked this legislation.
And President Biden can continue to bolster the Department of Justice’s capabilities to investigate and prosecute domestic terrorists after former President Donald Trump both ignored and stoked the worst impulses of the extreme right. It must be noted that the Buffalo shooter’s manifesto targeting support for Black communities bears a striking resemblance to the former president’s diatribes against Baltimore as “a disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess” despite the money spent there.
Words matter. We need each and every Republican leader to denounce the hate-filled rhetoric that has permeated on cable, online and from the mouths of some of the most powerful individuals in our country.
We cannot have a country where Black Americans and people of color live in fear that they will be the next victim of this kind of senseless attack. We cannot give in to a reality where good people can run a simple errand and be murdered in hate. That’s not the America I fought to defend, nor is it a version of America that we can accept.
We continue to mourn these tragic events of injustice and stand with all those continuing to grieve. But today, and every day, we need to recommit ourselves to action.
For the ten souls who lost their lives in Buffalo, for the memory of Lt. Collins, and the individuals taken from loved ones far too soon, we cannot ever allow hate to win.
Rep. Anthony Brown represents Maryland’s 4th District.