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Hochul: Illegal guns, not bail reform, to blame for Buffalo’s gun violence

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters in the street with a water tower behind her. She is a white woman with brown hair and wearing a dark blue dress. A WBFO microphone can be seen in the bottom of the frame, while other reporters holding microphones are seen to the right. It is daytime and sunny out.
Michael Mroziak
WBFO news
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters following a ribbon-cutting ceremony July 15, 2021 in Lancaster.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul says it’s more likely that illegal guns, not New York state’s bail reform laws, are to blame for Buffalo’s surge in gun violence.

The recent violence, which includes 14 people shot during the Fourth of July weekend, is threatening to break the city’s single-year record of 92 homicides in 1994.

Hochul, attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Lancaster Thursday, was asked about law enforcement officials, like Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, saying more suspects released on appearance tickets may be contributing to the violence.

Hochul said she respects Flynn’s opinion, but noted cities in other states are also seeing an increase in gun violence. She said illegal guns, crossing the state’s borders from states with less restrictive gun laws, like Pennsylvania, are a bigger factor.

“I was literally in Chenango County two days ago — tiny community of Oxford — and the local district attorney there told me the guns are coming right up Route 81,” she said. “So we have a real problem that we're addressing, but I think it's fair to look at it holistically, and we have a multifaceted approach to dealing with gun violence.”

Plus, Hochul said bail reform was necessary for a more equitable criminal justice system.

“Think about the system that existed in this state prior to our reforms, where two individuals are accused of the exact same offense. One ends up going free walking the streets, the other incarcerated. The only difference: whether one was rich or poor, whether they had the money to make bail,” she said. “So that is no longer the system in the state of New York. I think most people agree that that is a fairer system.”

However, Hochul said she does support the state Legislature’s effort to make some adjustments to bail reform.

Flynn has acknowledged his office does not have data proving those released under bail reform are responsible for the recent gun violence. Two persons of interest in the shooting death of a 3-year-old boy July 5 in Buffalo were allegedly found with an illegal rifle and illegal pistol.

WBFO reporter Michael Mroziak contributed to this story.

Tom Dinki joined WBFO in August 2019 to cover issues affecting older adults.
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