Mass shooting in Buffalo hits close to home in Toronto

WASHINGTON—This one hits close to home.

“Today, our neighbors, people who left their homes simply to go to work or buy food, were targeted by a racially inspired act of domestic terrorism,” New York State Congressman Brian Higgins said in a statement Tuesday. Saturday night. As he spoke about the killing of 10 people in a mass shooting in his own hometown of Buffalo on Saturday, in that sentence he could have expressed the thoughts of many people raised in Toronto.

For many of us, the stuff that happens in Buffalo really does feel like it happened in a part of GTA, at least for those of us of certain generations. In the pre-broadcast era, the American network television arrived in our living rooms via local Western New York affiliates just two hours from QEW. Major Tom and Irv Weinstein were Toronto celebrities, the Tonawanda and Cheektowaga fires were schoolyard talking points, the Buffalo Bills were our NFL team. We didn’t have a Tops supermarket in our neighborhood growing up, not even in our city or our country, but the chain’s ads for “friendly markets” and the sight of its embellished red logo were pleasantly familiar in my youth. .

Now here’s that logo on the US national news, surrounded by caution tape with a legion of police in the parking lot.

The “City of Good Neighbors” is a neighboring city of Toronto, and this weekend they were attacked.

Ten of them dead, 13 shot because a young man with a head full of racist ideology and an assault rifle decided to livestream a murderous rampage in which he targeted a black neighborhood.

“The evidence we’ve uncovered so far doesn’t make it clear that this is an outright racist hate crime,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said this weekend of a teen who drove more than 200 miles to a black neighborhood to find victims and appeared to have inscribed a racial slur on the barrel of his rifle. “This is someone who has hate in her heart, soul and mind.”

Higgins said, “The families I know are forever changed, loved ones gone forever.”

Although they feel like our neighbors in Toronto, they live across an international border on the side where access to guns makes shootings, and mass shootings, more horrifyingly mundane than in Canada. It is not that we are immune to ideologically motivated mass murder in the North: a string of murders from the L’Ecole Polytechnique massacre to the Quebec City mosque attack, to the Moncton shooting and the the Yonge Street van easily come to mind.

But America exists on an entirely different scale of tragedy. According to Statista Research, there were at least 70 mass shootings in the country in the decade ending last December. The Centers for Disease Control recently reported that 19,000 Americans died from firearm homicides in 2020, the highest annual total on record. The city of Chicago recorded more murders in July 2020 than similar-sized Toronto experienced in that entire year.

It’s a country where you can walk into a store and buy a semi-automatic assault rifle. Where a 17-year-old who used one to shoot and kill during a conflict with anti-racist protesters in 2020 became a political folk hero to many. It’s a place where the men who store those weapons often have horrible targets.

In 2015, a 21-year-old white supremacist went to a black church in Charleston, South Carolina and murdered nine people. In 2019, a 21-year-old white nationalist went to a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas, with a gun to attack Latinos, killing 23 people and wounding 23 others. Last year, the Office of the Director of Intelligence The US National reported that such acts of racist terrorism were the greatest domestic threat in the country.

Buffalo racist Payton Gendron, 18, posted a manifesto saying he was inspired by the shooters in Charleston and El Paso, along with another in Christchurch, New Zealand.

And he wrote that he was motivated by the racist conspiracy “great replacement theory,” which holds that white Americans are being outnumbered by immigrants of color in a concerted attempt to outvote and dominate them.

That has become a surprisingly common idea in mainstream right-wing American politics. The New York Times reported last month that Tucker Carlson, the nation’s most popular right-wing cable talk show host, had referenced the theory on his show more than 400 times. New York state Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking Republican in Congress, invoked the theory in ads last year when she said Democrats were planning a “permanent electoral insurrection” that they would accomplish by granting amnesty to illegal immigrants for ” overthrow our current electorate. .” An Associate Press poll released this month showed that about one in three Americans believe that effort is underway.

In a country where it’s easy to arm yourself with high-powered weapons, it’s even easier to arm yourself with extremist ideas that offer twisted justifications for using them.

“Our nation is heartbroken by the tragic news of the horrific loss of life in Buffalo,” Stefanik tweeted after the shooting in Buffalo this weekend. “We are in mourning for the entire community and their loved ones.” She offered support for law enforcement. She offered no diagnosis of what might have provided the shooter with the means or motivation to commit the crime.

His is part of what has become a widely derided genre of reaction to such shootings, offering “thoughts and prayers” rather than plans to respond. Our dear neighbors, always thinking and praying. Always in mourning.

An insufficient number of thoughts and prayers does not seem to be the problem. Instead, it is the overabundance of toxic ideology and deadly weapons.

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