Long before the racist massacre at a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, Pastor George Nicholas was laying the groundwork to address the living history of segregation on the city’s East Side. To many people in the area, last year’s mass shooting underscored the area’s living history of segregation; prejudicial housing policies, food apartheid, disproportionate policing, and detrimental health outcomes have long disenfranchised this community. Residents had hoped the high-profile, targeted violence would encourage reinvestment in the East Side. But for Black community members, the national conversation did more harm than good, writes Camalot Todd for The Trace, steering the narrative away from the trauma of the shooter’s attack and instead centering his mental health and engagement with hateful ideologies online.
In short, the work of responding to the structural racism that led to the gunman’s violence fell back to people like Nicholas, who’s been dedicated to the East Side’s recovery for decades. Out of the shooting, Nicholas and other community leaders saw an opportunity for community strengthening and reinvestment. Nicholas helped form a partnership between the University at Buffalo Community Health Equity Research Institute and the Buffalo Center for Health Equity to address long-standing inequalities on the East Side. Mark Talley Jr., whose mother was killed in the massacre, launched a nonprofit aimed at addressing poverty through financial literacy in his community and combating systemic racism. In November, a coalition of groups donated hundreds of Thanksgiving meals to the people on the East Side.
Then there’s the Buffalo United Resiliency Center. “Resiliency centers” are meant to be a hub to provide services and assistance to people who experience a mass shooting, though there’s no research on their efficacy. The Justice Department encourages communities to open them in the wake of mass shootings. In Las Vegas, Newtown, Oxford, and Uvalde, they opened between 13 days and 10 months after the shooting. In Buffalo, some are hesitant to trust the resiliency center — perhaps with good reason. The center opened in November, and that same month, its phone number went to a dial tone and the doors were locked during operating hours. Its interim director estimates it’ll be at least six more months until the center is fully operational.
The state has allocated $5.5 million to the Buffalo United Resiliency Center since last June. That’s frustrating to Talley, who says the money “could have been used better for organizations and businesses already in that area.” Still, his work and others’ goes on.
Across the country, individuals and communities, like in Buffalo, are grappling with America’s gun violence epidemic head on. Oftentimes, though, the people — and programs and policies — making a difference are overshadowed by the enormity of the problem. But this crisis has solutions. That’s why next week, The Trace is launching The Trajectory, a new newsletter highlighting stories like Nicholas’s and Talley’s, as well as the innovative programs and policies that are making a difference. It’s written by reporter Chip Brownlee, and it will go out every other week.
As Brownlee says, in his introduction to the newsletter: “The epidemic will never abate if we focus only on the problem. We have to look at potential solutions, too.”
From Our Team
Buffalo’s East Side Isn’t Only Grieving the Tops Mass Shooting: The tragedy, in which 10 Black people were killed, was a missed opportunity to confront the legacy of segregation, community members say.
After a Race Centered on Gun Violence, Cherelle Parker Wins Philadelphia Democratic Mayoral Primary: Parker pledged to crack down on crime and declare a state of emergency.
What to Know This Week
A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction against a New Jersey ban on the concealed carry of firearms in “sensitive places” like restaurants, libraries, and museums. The judge ruled that the state didn’t show “sufficient historical evidence” to support the ban, but that other aspects of the state’s new concealed carry law, passed in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision, were consistent with the Second Amendment. [Bloomberg Law News]
Every state has a program to provide financial aid to victims of violent crime. But many states disproportionately deny Black victims and their families compensation, for reasons experts say are rooted in institutional racial bias. [Associated Press]
Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo issued his first vetoes to strike down a trio of gun safety bills passed by Democrats on party-line votes. Lawmakers could override the veto with supermajority support, but that outcome appears unlikely given the makeup of the state Legislature. [Nevada Current]
YouTube’s suggested videos algorithm is recommending violent and graphic gun-related videos to children as young as 9, oftentimes in violation of its own policies, according to a study by the Tech Transparency Project. [Associated Press]
The Supreme Court declined to temporarily block Illinois’ assault weapons ban. It will likely remain in effect while the challenge against it plays out in a federal appeals court. [Chicago Sun-Times]
Texas legislators voted to close a loophole in the state’s background check law that allowed people who had been involuntarily hospitalized for mental health issues between ages 16 and 18 to legally purchase guns. The bill now heads to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk. [The Texas Tribune]
A judge in Virginia ruled that banning licensed dealers from selling handguns to 18- to 20-year-olds is unconstitutional, striking down the federal age limit on firearm purchases. [Associated Press]
A new California law was supposed to hold police accountable when an officer kills someone who isn’t armed. But state Justice Department investigations are dragging on, with some shooting reviews stretching past 18 months — and some victims’ family members have lost faith in the process. [CalMatters]
Armed, right-wing vigilantes, including extremists, have returned to the Arizona border after the expiration of Title 42, a public health order that created a backlog of asylum-seekers in Mexico. The gun-toting vigilantes are harassing migrants and humanitarian aid workers. [The Intercept]
Texas public safety officials confirmed that the mass shooter who killed eight people — most or all of whom were people of color, and four of Asian descent — at a mall in a Dallas suburb had neo-Nazi tattoos and paraphernalia. Media reports also show he made racist and extremist social media posts. Why isn’t the shooting being investigated as a hate crime? [KUT]
Numerous governments, both friendly to the U.S. and not, are warning citizens about traveling to America amid a rise in mass shootings. As the U.S. prepares to host major world events like the 2026 World Cup and 2028 Olympics, could the gun violence crisis cause the country to lose out on millions — maybe even billions — of tourism dollars? [Los Angeles Times]
Democrats in the Minnesota Senate used their one-vote majority to pass a major public safety bill that includes provisions that would expand background checks for gun transfers and establish an extreme risk protection order law. The firearm safety measures were previously approved by the House, and Governor Tim Walz has repeatedly affirmed his support of the legislation. [Associated Press]
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning credit card companies from tracking gun and ammunition sales into law; several major credit card companies committed to creating a new merchant code for firearm sales last year. [The New Republic]
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, who announced that he’d call a special session in August on gun safety, quietly signed legislation giving gunmakers further protections against liability lawsuits. [Associated Press]
Families of victims of the 2021 mass shooting at Michigan’s Oxford High School want to know if the attack could have been prevented. They’re still waiting for the district to give them answers. [ProPublica]
Jasmine Bennett, 25, was the glue in her family, one of her aunts told the Indianapolis Star — a “bright light” and a talented gift-giver who proffered presents at more holidays than just Christmas and birthdays. Bennett was shot and killed earlier this month while covering a shift at a Lawrence, Indiana, Dollar Tree, one of her several jobs. “Jazzy,” as her family called her, loved working at the discount store, where she and her co-workers played lighthearted pranks on one another. She loved sloths, and she was looking forward to a nearby library’s reopening. Bennett was “just a thoughtful, nice, genuinely nice person,” her sister said. Her aunt added: “When she was in a bad mood, she had a smile for you. She was just the happiest, happiest girl.”
‘This Is Our Issue’: Baltimore Teens Ask to Be Heard in Discussions About Gun Violence: “Some Baltimore high schoolers are feeling hopeless. They are avoiding leaving their houses, worried they will get shot. They are dealing with post-traumatic stress and mental illness after losing loved ones to violence. They are being shot in record numbers, even as nonfatal shootings and homicides are down — with many of these shootings involving teens happening near their schools. Since January, 15 teens have died from gun violence. And yet, they say, no one is listening to them.” [The Baltimore Banner]
“What plays in their mind is that their loved one wasn’t important. It takes the power away from it being a homicide, and it creates a portion of blame for the victim.”
— Chantay Love, executive director of the Every Murder is Real Healing Center in Philadelphia, on Black applicants for homicide victims’ compensation receiving disproportionate denial rates, to the Associated Press