All eyes turned to New York on May 14, when 10 people were killed and three injured at a supermarket in Buffalo, an allegedly racially motivated massacre with 11 out of 13 victims being Black.
The tragedy in Buffalo was followed by high-profile mass shootings in Orange County, California, Chicago, Illinois and Uvalde, Texas.
Campus public policy professor Jack Glaser said it is clear the shooter was “motivated by extreme prejudice,” given that he left a manifesto and a “trail of social media hate.” Similarly, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín echoed that the massacre was a crime of a “white supremacist.”
“Human history is replete with these kinds of acts, but it is worth noting that they are often triggered by the hateful and prejudiced rhetoric of leaders,” Glaser said in an email. “If they are prone to violence, and ‘whiteness’ is an important part of their identity, and they have access to lethal weapons, this can be the result.”
In response to the mass shooting, Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Dania Matos expressed her solidarity with the Black student body in a statement May 16.
The “anti-Black” mass shooting, Matos noted, came at a time when Black graduates were celebrating commencement.
“A time for student celebration, agency and empowerment was clouded by white supremacy, racism, gun violence and xenophobic hate,” Matos said in the statement.
Mayor Arreguín said the city of Berkeley is doing its part to combat white supremacy and institute better gun laws.
In response to rallies organized by people with ties to white supremacist organizations a couple of years ago in the city of Berkeley, he said they started a United Against Hate campaign, which inspired an annual United Against Hate week across the country.
“Berkeley has a lengthy history of approving common sense gun regulation, including a prohibition on the possession of ghost guns that was approved last year,” Arreguín said in an email.
Berkeley City Councilmember Sophie Hahn said in an email that she is “sickened,” “saddened” and “appalled” by the tragedy in Buffalo. The rise of mass shootings and gun violence necessitate gun control, Hahn claimed.
While she said hatred, mental illness and “negative emotions and conditions” are important issues to address, Hahn noted that the damage one can do is less severe without gun access.
“A mentally ill, frustrated, or hate-filled person without a gun can do some damage if they really want to, but it’s unlikely they can do much,” Hahn said in the email. “With a gun, in particular a weapon of war, the damage is extreme – with many lives lost, and many lives shattered.”
The destructive power of a gun calls for better defense mechanisms in public spaces, according to campus law professor Franklin Zimring. He said the U.S. does not do “a good job” at restricting weapons, also noting the need to invest in more prevention resources.
Zimring alleged the Buffalo shooter was motivated by narcissism and the need to “make a point.”
“This is the kind of shooting that takes place, not because Smith is furious at Jones and therefore uses a gun in the context of a particular interpersonal dispute,” Zimring said. “This is Smith being mad at the world.”
Zimring added that these tragic incidents are “chronically quite higher” in the U.S. this year than in past years.
According to Giffords Law Center, gun violence is on the rise nationally with six of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in the United States since 1950 having occurred in the last decade.
In response to a series of mass shootings this past month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders gathered Wednesday to announce efforts to curb gun violence and protect communities.
“Each precious life lost to senseless gun violence is a tragedy of huge proportions and an affront to families, communities, and every decent human being,” Hahn said in the email. “Gun control is an imperative, and we must also treat those suffering from mental illness and combat racism and hatred in all forms.”