Uptick In Gun Violence In Buffalo Concerning Citizens and Leaders
The number of shootings in the City of Buffalo continues to rise and mirrors a troubling trend seen in other parts of the country as well.
WGRZ-TV reports that the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association's Facebook page noted that as of last Friday there had been 45 shootings in Buffalo this year, compared to 18 last year at this time.
2021 is building on a growing trend of gun violence. 2020 saw a 90 percent rise in shootings over 2019, a year which had seen the lowest number of shootings than in the previous seven. Law enforcement officials attributed much of this increase in activity to street gangs.
They say gang members are not only believed to have been behind many of the shootings, but that gang members comprised many of the victims.
The FBI estimates there are between 40 and 50 street gangs in Buffalo with roughly 800 members.
Frustrating is a code of silence among those involved in street gangs, leaving the perpetrator on the streets to potentially continue the violence.
“They know who shot them and even saw who shot them. But they don’t want to talk to me,” said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn
Police also note that New York’s bail reform measures have either resulted in lower bail set for people charged with gun possession. They insist this has made it more difficult to keep violent criminals off the streets.
Others point to the COVID-19 pandemic causing stress and unrest.
“It’s creating a lot of negative tension and negative energy,” said Pastor James Giles, president of Back to Basics Outreach Ministry and a leader of the Buffalo Peacemakers.
For a variety of reasons associated with the pandemic, nerves have become frayed and tempers have grown short, according to Giles.
“This is a kind of an aggressive tension that people have,” said Giles, who says it often manifests itself spontaneously, where one person who's already angry about something gets mad at someone else who may already be upset.
Giles says another key component in the rise in violent shootings can be summed up in two words.
“Gun accessibility," he said. “There are just too many guns on the streets.”
According to Giles, it appears that despite law enforcement efforts, it as easy as it’s ever been to obtain a firearm.
“We’re not talking about legal gun owners,” he said, in reference to those who purchase guns at stores while undergoing background checks and who have pistol permits. We’re talking about the illegal guns that continue to flood the streets,” said Giles, noting those guns can get into the hands of young people more easily than many might suspect.
According to Giles, many young people don’t necessarily get guns to commit crimes but believe they need them to protect themselves against the rising tide of violence around them.
"It is not a protection method for them, and if they carry one they will invariably be put in a position where they have to use it," he said.
Giles has been working with law enforcement agencies and civic leaders to stem the influx of illegal weapons.