Buffalo police chief debunks Republican argument saying slain officer was the ‘good guy with a gun’

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia testified before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday about Aaron Salter Jr who he said had ‘no chance’ against an AR-15

Rachel Sharp
Wednesday 08 June 2022 19:35 BST
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia testified at the hearing on Wednesday

The police chief who responded to the Buffalo mass shooting has hit back at the Republican argument against tighter gun control measures, saying that the security guard who was shot and killed in the massacre was the proverbial “good guy with a gun”.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia testified before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday morning where lawmakers heard from victims and witnesses of the latest deadly mass shootings that have torn apart families and communities in recent weeks.

Commissioner Gramaglia spoke about Aaron Salter Jr, the security guard at the Tops Friendly Market who was among the 10 Black people killed in the racist massacre in Buffalo, New York, on 14 May.

Mr Salter, a retired Buffalo police officer, was armed and was working security at the store that day when the shooting unfolded.

But, he had “no chance” against a gunman with a legally purchased AR-15 – a firearm that is known to rack up a high “body count”, said the commissioner.

“It is often said that a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun,” he testified.

“Aaron was the good guy and was no match for what he went up against: a legal AR-15 with multiple high-capacity magazines.”

He added: “He had no chance.”

Investigators said that when the gunman began opening fire at the grocery store, Mr Salter returned fire, striking the perpetrator with at least one shot.

However, Mr Gendron was wearing body armour and was also armed with the high-capacity rifle.

He shot and killed the 55-year-old security guard before continuing to target shoppers and workers inside the store.

The commissioner testified that the gunman – 18-year-old Payton Gendron – should never have been able to get ahold of the AR-15 he used to kill 10 Black people in the attack.

“Assault weapons like the AR-15 are known for three things: how many rounds they fire, the speed at which they fire those rounds, and body count,” he said.

“This radicalised 18-year-old adult should have never been able to have access to the weapons he used to perpetrate the attack and laws need to be enacted to ensure it never happens again.”

A pamphlet from the funeral for the slain security guard Aaron Salter Jr (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

During his testimony, Commissioner Gramaglia said that the “gun violence epidemic” is “plaguing our nation” and has “devastated communities around the country” including his home community of Buffalo.

“Our communtities are hurting and we must continue to support them, the loved ones and our brave first responders,” he said.

“No city should have to go through this and it is time to make changes to a system that is leaving blood on our sidewalks every single day,” he added.

He pointed to a series of firearms proposals adopted by the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA) in 2018 that he said would help to tackle the nation’s gun violence but would not violate the rights of Americans including red flag laws, universal background checks, background checks, and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“The MCCA will continue to call on elected reps to eschew politics and take the necessary steps to address the gun violence epidemic. Your leadership is needed now more than ever,” he said.

In total, 13 people were shot by self-proclaimed racist and white supremacist Mr Gendron in the mass shooting in Buffalo back on 14 May.

The 18-year-old gunman was able to legally purchase an AR-15 and body armour before he drove to the predominantly Black neighbourhood and opened fire innocent shoppers.

Ten Black people were killed in the horrific attack while three other victims who were shot survived.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia testified at the hearing on Wednesday (ABC)

The massacre came just 10 days before 19 young students aged just nine to 11 years old and two teachers were shot and killed in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Days after that, four people were murdered in a mass shooting at a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

In all three cases, AR-15s were used and the shooters bought the weapons legally.

Dozens more Americans have also been killed in mass shootings across the country in recent weeks.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform convened the hearing on Wednesday morning as Democrats and Republicans are once again debating gun control measures and calls are growing for tighter gun legislation to stop the gun violence epidemic.

House Democrats said the hearing was called to tackle “the urgent need to address the gun violence epidemic”.

In the days after the massacres, several Republican lawmakers have pushed back against calls from Democrats, victims’ families and survivors for tighter gun control laws.

Instead, many have continued to push the NRA’s longstanding claim that a “good guy with a gun” will stop a “bad guy with a gun”.

Speaking at the NRA convention days after 21 were killed in Uvalde, former President Donald Trump said: “As the age-old saying goes, the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

These comments persist despite Mr Salter’s story in Buffalo and the revelation that around 19 armed officers were stood in the school hallway while the Uvalde massacre continued – but didn’t intervene with their own firearms for more than an hour.

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