The person charged in the Buffalo shooting got out of his vehicle outside the Tops supermarket looking like he was entering a war zone. He was wearing a bulletproof vest, tactical gear and a helmet. He carried a Bushmaster XM-15 semi-automatic rifle, modified to hold high-capacity magazines. He had a shotgun and a rifle in his car as backup.
But he didn’t need the backup weapons to quickly shoot four people in the parking lot, killing three of them. He didn’t need it to kill a security guard inside the store whose own gun was no match for the bulletproof vest. He also didn’t need it to shoot several other people inside the store. The semi-automatic assault rifle, which was reportedly bought at a small gun store for less than $1,000, was all he needed to carry out his massacre.
Other attackers who espoused white supremacist beliefs, such as the man accused of killing 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, and another accused of killing more than 20 people in a Walmart in El Paso in 2019 used semi-automatic firearms. So did the white supremacist gunman who killed nine black worshipers at a South Carolina church in 2015.
Military-style weapons and equipment are also the calling cards of extremist private militias in the United States, whose anti-government ideology and Second Amendment insurgency outlook has led to increased intimidation and coercion.
Unauthorized and illegal, these private militias encourage their members to own assault rifles. They often wear military-style gear (similar to the Buffalo shooting suspect) and train in paramilitary techniques. Members of armed militias forced their way into the state capitals of Boise, Idaho, and Lansing, Michigan. They usurped the role of law enforcement, claiming to protect the rights of First Amendment protesters at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. ., in 2017, and engaging in self-defense border patrols in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Militia members were among those who attacked the US Capitol on January 6, seeking to disrupt the Electoral College vote count, and were reportedly ready to call in a heavily armed ‘quick reaction force’ just outside Washington.
The concealed weapons case pending Supreme Court ruling presents the first major Second Amendment issue to be considered by justices since 2008. Although it involves a challenge to the validity of concealed carry restrictions on New York’s longtime contender, the arguments made by the challengers, if accepted, could call other gun safety restrictions into question. The signatories of the national security brief – including former career and politically appointed national security officials – have been united in urging the court to consider the threats to national security and public safety posed by easy access to firearms.
This warning is not new.
Nicholas Rasmussen, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, warned upon his resignation in 2017: “We are in a more dangerous situation because our population of violent extremists has no difficulty in accessing enough weapons. deadly. And in early 2021, Christopher Wray, the FBI Director, told a Senate committee that racially motivated violent extremism was “the biggest part of our domestic terrorism portfolio” overall, with the trend of “militia violent extremists”.