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Alito points to Buffalo shooting in striking down N.Y. gun restriction

The Supreme Court building in Washington on Thursday.Gemunu Amarasinghe/Associated Press

Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito, writing a concurring opinion for the majority, cited the recent mass shooting in Buffalo as he sought to tie the rampage to the court’s decision to strike down a restrictive New York gun law.

Alito’s reference to the shooting came in response to Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent, in which he said the majority’s ruling would “severely burden” efforts by states to curb rising gun violence and listed a number of high-profile mass shootings.

“How does the dissent account for the fact that one of the mass shootings near the top of its list took place in Buffalo?” Alito wrote. “The New York law at issue in this case obviously did not stop that perpetrator.”


The 6-3 decision by the Court Thursday said that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense, rejecting a New York state law that sought to limit that ability.

Alito added that the “real thrust of today’s dissent is that guns are bad.”

Breyer rejected that characterization, saying guns have legitimate purposes, including hunting and self defense.

“Balancing these lawful uses against the dangers of firearms is primarily the responsibility of elected bodies, such as legislatures,” Breyer wrote. He said firearm regulation “presents a complex problem — one that should be solved by legislatures rather than courts.”

The back-and-forth by Breyer and Alito referenced the May mass shooting in Buffalo, in which a gunman targeted a supermarket in a neighborhood with a high Black population, killing 10 people and wounding three others. The massacre led to renewed calls nationwide for gun control, which only increased days later when a gunman killed 21 people at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

The Court’s ruling Thursday may lead to a rollback of restrictions in a number of states with low gun death rates, including Massachusetts.