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N.Y. Gov. Kathy Hochul calls domestic terrorism 'most significant threat' to nation after Buffalo shooting

Hochul proposed stiffer gun legislation, spurred the state attorney general to investigate social media platforms and announced a unit focused on fighting domestic terrorism.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday introduced a plan for tighter gun control, vowed to investigate social media platforms and promised to fight domestic terrorism after a gunman killed 10 people and wounded three others at a Buffalo supermarket Saturday.

Hochul said at a news conference that the intersection of "two crises" led to the shooting: "the mainstreaming of hate speech, of racism, and the easy access to military-style weapons and magazines."

"How many more lives have to be needlessly taken for us before we face the truth?" she asked. "We can no longer look away, and we’re not just going to call it out.

"And the truth is the most serious threat we face as a nation is from within. It’s not from the Russians. It’s not from people elsewhere. It’s white supremacism. It’s white nationalism, and it’s time we confronted it head on.

"Domestic terrorism is the most significant threat we face as a state and as a nation," she said.

Hochul said New York State Police will now be required to "file for an extreme risk protection order" when they believe someone is a threat. Under the state's current red flag laws, police had the option of reporting.

Hochul also said she will work with the Legislature to pass laws to require police to report gun crimes within 24 hours and to require identifying microstamps on semi-automatic pistols sold in New York.

She said she will also work to pass legislation that would ban "any other weapons" designed to "fall outside the realm of regulation."

Hochul said she sent a referral to Attorney General Letitia James to "investigate social media platforms that broadcasted the horrific attack in Buffalo and legitimized replacement theory." James said she is launching the investigations.

Hochul also announced the creation of state units to fight domestic terrorism — which are to coordinate with New York counties and law enforcement. The force will also be responsible for flagging extremism on social media.

Authorities said the 18-year-old suspect in the Buffalo shooting streamed the attack on the social media platform Twitch. A Twitch spokesperson said the platform has investigated and confirmed that the stream was removed “less than two minutes after the violence started.”

A document that authorities said appeared to have been written by the suspect was posted to Google Docs on Thursday night. 

The writer claims he was radicalized on an extremist 4chan forum while he was “bored” at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020. He appears to adhere to "replacement theory," a false conspiracy theory that proclaims that white Americans will be replaced by nonwhite people through immigration, interracial marriage and, eventually, violence. 

The document also says Buffalo was targeted because it is the city with the most Black residents nearest to the author’s residence, and it repeatedly refers to the gunman who killed 51 people and injured dozens of others in the 2019 shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Anti-Defamation League said the screed attributed to the Buffalo suspect closely parallels the language in the document written by the Christchurch shooter.

Last year, New York State Police investigated the suspect after he made a threat in June about wanting to carry out a shooting while he was a high school student, a senior law enforcement official said. At the time, the suspect was a minor, the official said. He was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, and he was not charged with a crime. 

His parents said his weapons were purchased legally, according to officials.

Hochul said Wednesday that she hopes the newly proposed measures would give leaders a "better opportunity to be in the prevention business instead of just the cleanup business."

The suspect in Saturday's shooting, identified as Payton Gendron, was arraigned Saturday evening in Buffalo City Court on a count of first-degree murder, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office said.

He was remanded without bail, and a felony hearing was scheduled for Thursday morning, the DA’s office said.