Senator Sean Ryan Speaks On Senate Floor About Jefferson Avenue Supermarket Shooting


“I'm totally heartbroken. I want to yell, but I also want to cry. A 77-year-old grandmother. A 53-year-old going out to buy a cake for his grandson: ‘I'll be back in 15 minutes.’ A 67-year-old deacon. The list goes on. It was people going about their daily life on a beautiful Saturday in Buffalo.

We had a long, hard, ugly winter. It's one of our first great weekends. Everyone was out. Stores were crowded. Streets were crowded. It was springtime jubilation – until it wasn't. This all happened in less than three minutes. In less than three minutes, all these lives were changed. All these grandsons, granddaughters, nieces, nephews, neighbors – they'll never see those people again. Three minutes. How could that be? My kids are out of college now. They're living out of town. They called in tears. They want me to explain what happened. I can't explain to a 22-year-old what happened, because you can't explain it. The city is filled with tears. You could hear a pin drop all of Saturday and all of Sunday in Buffalo. And while we appreciate the gestures, the outreach, the president coming – we'd rather we didn't have any of it and this didn't happen.

And each time this happens, we struggle to explain it like I tried to explain to my kids. You want to say, ‘It's unexplainable. I don't know how this happens in America.’ But that's really not the truth. It's really not the truth. Because you know what happened in a historically Black church in Charleston in 2015? Black people were murdered because they were Black people. Do you know what happened at a gay nightclub in Orlando in 2016? People were murdered because they were gay. Do you know what happened in Pittsburgh in 2018 at a synagogue? People were murdered for the sole fact that they were Jewish. A Walmart in El Paso, Texas in 2019? People were murdered because they were Mexican American. A now a supermarket in Buffalo in 2022. I don't know whether to yell or to cry.

Who did this? A man-child. 18 years old. For the love of God, how does an 18-year-old get this much hate in their heart? And how do they get an assault weapon? They’ve probably never been to Buffalo before. They drove three and a half hours from their bucolic country town because they were afraid of Black people and minorities taking over the country. And this 18-year-old man child, he thought he had to respond to the call of action. Where does this call come from? It's all over our media. Turn on Fox News; you'll hear it. Go to any of the blogs; you'll hear it. The replacement theory – ‘There is an elitist conspiracy taking place in America to have minorities replace white people.’ You may laugh and say, ‘Well, that's the craziest thing in the world.’ Well, almost every one of those mass murders I just read, they were fueled by that theory.

How could it be? How could it be that this is creeping its way through cable news, the internet, now into mainstream right-wing political discourse? ‘Well, we all know about the replacement theory.’ Well, that's what happens when this thing goes unchecked. So, who's to blame? The 18-year-old gunman; that's for sure. How about the gun industry, convincing Americans, ‘Hey, maybe it would be a really cool thing to do – buy an AR15’? Twenty years ago, no one had a gun like that in America. Now they mass market them: cheap guns – cheap Bushmaster guns. For under $1,000, you could buy a gun that can kill a whole supermarket full of people in three minutes. The gun industry sells loads that are designed to maim and kill humans – to tear through their flesh. These are not loads designed to take down a deer. These are loads designed in a laboratory, in any of the ammunition manufacturers in America, to kill us. Not to kill a rabbit, not to kill a squirrel. How about the paramilitary industry? This kid looks like he was out of some special forces regimen. Who sells Kevlar helmets to the American public? Who sells armor-plated tactical gear? In my lifetime, it was only available under military license. Now, anybody with a crackpot conspiracy theory can go buy weapons of war.

And certainly, we know the biggest commercialization of this hateful rhetoric all comes through cable news. It comes through AM radio. Yesterday, I was driving around; I tuned in a few times to AM radio to hear live updates. And I didn't get the chance to turn my radio off before the call-ins started, because my day would have been a lot better if I hadn't heard the call-ins. Hardly any thoughts and prayers. Local AM radio; you know what they wanted to talk about? They wanted to talk about the replacement theory. That's what they wanted to talk about. They didn't want to talk about the people who lost their lives. They didn't want to talk about the people who didn't come home. Not a lot of sympathy. Not a lot of empathy. But boy, were they pretty clear about what was going wrong in America. Now, we could say this gunman didn't come from Buffalo, and that might give us some sort of salve on our wounds. But those call-in shows that I heard all yesterday afternoon, they were just my friends and neighbors.

So, what's the call to action? I wish I had a real easy one. But we all know it. We all hear it. We've all heard it throughout our lifetimes, right? You hear the off-color joke. You hear the off-color comment. You hear the people on cable news. I might go on the same AM radio program; I'm not going on those programs anymore. We're at a point in America where I'd like to say, ‘I don't want to be in the same category as El Paso and Pittsburgh.’

So, Buffalo's in there now, and I'd love to stand in front of you to say, ‘This is it. It'll never happen again. We're going to stop it.’ But I'm despondent today. I don't have any faith that we – as Broome County residents, as Erie County residents – that we're going to come together and actually stop this, that we're going to have the courage to stop this. I don't have the confidence that we, as New Yorkers, come together. And I don't have any confidence that we, as Americans, can come together and recognize that we're all American – that there are no others, outsiders, interlopers, people who should not be given the full rights of the Constitution. I don't think we're there. I feel sorry for the next city, the next town, the next church, the next synagogue who has to go through the pain that we're experiencing in Buffalo, New York. And I tell you, I pray to God there is no next city. But I wish in my intellectual brain that that could be true. But I don't find that to be true today.”