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Buffalo mass shooting sparks conversation among Northwest Florida activists

WEAR – Mobile-Pensacola logo WEAR – Mobile-Pensacola 5/16/2022 Olivia Iverson
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PENSACOLA, Fla. -- Ten people were killed and three others were hurt after a man opened fire in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York on Saturday.

Police say the 18-year-old suspect was targeting mostly black customers and employees. He's pled not guilty.

Caption: WEAR

Police say he was planning to kill even more black Americans if he wasn't taken into custody when he was.

The Martin Luther King Jr. memorial has sat in Downtown Pensacola for years as a symbol of the civil rights movement and anti-violence.

At least one activist running off those same values told Channel 3 he was devastated to hear about the mass shooting in Buffalo, but he says he was not surprised.

Associate professor of government from UWF, Jacob Shively, told Channel 3 that in these scenarios, lawmakers often disagree on what's necessary to stop similar shootings from happening again.

Images after Saturday's deadly mass shooting in Buffalo struck a chord with activists working against racism and violence.

"This should not be happening," Ellison Bennett, National Movement for Civil and Human Rights executive board member said. "I pray everyday that does not happen in Escambia County. But we know in reality, anywhere, anytime, people who have been told to hate someone because of the pigmentation of their skin -- it can happen."

  • Channel 3: Is there any evidence to suggest how likely it would be for something like that to happen in our area?
  • Shively: Unfortunately, there really, at that level of the individual, there is very few ways to make a prediction.

Shively says unfortunately, Buffalo isn't the first scene of racially-driven shootings.

Over 20 died at an El Paso Walmart in 2019. Investigators said the gunman intended to kill Mexicans.

Another man killed nine at a predominantly black South Carolina church four years earlier. He was convicted on federal hate crimes.

"Unfortunately, it's hard for policy makers to take definitive action," Shively said. 

Shively says that's because lawmakers disagree on what caused the shooting.

"I condemn it," Rep. Matt Gaetz said on his Firebrand podcast. "I oppose gun control as a mechanism to stop violence. It will not work."

Not all Florida politicians are calling for change just yet.

Governor Ron DeSantis' office said in part "a thorough investigation into the causes of this tragedy is necessary to determine what would have been done to prevent it." He also told Channel 3, "it would be prudent to refrain from any unsubstantiated speculation or policy statements."

In Northwest Florida, activists are holding out hope for change.

"It's wrong, it's hurtful, and it should not be happening in America," Bennett said. 

When talking about radicalism, Shively also mentioned the attack at NAS Pensacola.

While the attack in Buffalo is heartbreaking for many and those mass shootings happen more in the U.S. than other countries, Shively says they are still rare.

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