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Relatives of Buffalo Shooting Victims Angered by Ruling

A woman seated with families of the victims killed in the Buffalo Tops supermarket mass shooting cried during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on domestic terrorism, Tuesday, June 7, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington.Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a New York state law that strictly limited the carrying of handguns prompted frustration among some in Buffalo, the state’s second-largest city, where 10 people were killed in gunfire at a grocery store last month.

The 18-year-old gunman was armed with a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle that was purchased legally at a store near his hometown. Ten days after the attack, another high-profile massacre unfolded at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where 21 people were slain.

Zeneta Everhart, whose 21-year-old son, Zaire Goodman, was shot in Buffalo but survived, said in an interview Thursday that “as a mother, I’m heartbroken that this country isn’t protecting Zaire.”

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“It’s ridiculous,” Everhart said. “When is enough going to be enough? What else has to happen before this country wakes up and understands that the people in this country don’t feel safe. The government, the courts, the lawmakers, they are here to protect us — and I don’t feel protected.”

She added that although she supports the tenets of the Second Amendment, she believes that “people should have to earn the right to handle a firearm in this country.”

In his concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito directly cited the May 14 massacre, suggesting that it showed the state’s law was not improving safety.

“Will a person bent on carrying out a mass shooting be stopped if he knows that it is illegal to carry a handgun outside the home?” he wrote. “And how does the dissent account for the fact that one of the mass shootings near the top of its list took place in Buffalo? The New York law at issue in this case obviously did not stop that perpetrator.”

Garnell Whitfield Jr., whose 86-year-old mother, Ruth, was killed in the massacre, said in a Thursday interview that he believed the reference to Buffalo was inappropriate.

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“If he wanted to bring up Buffalo, he should have talked about white supremacy,” he said in reference to the racist ideologies espoused by the gunman. “The court is illegitimate at this point. It’s completely been politicized.”

Whitfield said he felt the nation was taking “one step forward and two steps back,” given that the decision came on the same day that the Senate moved closer to approving bipartisan gun safety legislation.

“It’s a kick in the teeth. It’s hurtful,” he said.

New York became the first state in the nation to pass new legislation earlier this month in the shadow of the killings in Buffalo and Uvalde, approving several bills including one to increase the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle to 21 from 18.

Wayne Jones, who lost his mother, Celestine Chaney, 65, in the Buffalo massacre, said Thursday that he had mixed feelings about the decision. He empathizes with residents who might worry about weapons being carried, he said, but he shares the view of public defenders that the current law disproportionately affected people of color.

“My thing about the gun situation is they’ve targeted the Black community,” Jones said in an interview. “The big fight needs to be these assault weapons. You don’t need them. And we need to get them off the streets.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.