The leader of the New York state Democratic Party and other advocates are slamming gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi after he blamed Gov. Kathy Hochul and tied longterm effects of the state's cashless bail policy for Saturday's racially motivated shooting that claimed the life of 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket and injured three others.
Suozzi, a Long Island Democrat, said on Wednesday the Western New York massacre came on the heels of insufficient state leadership and changes to state criminal justice policies.
When asked what legislative loopholes he would address in wake of Saturday's shooting, Suozzi named New York's bail reform laws that ended cash bail requirements for many criminal charges in 2019 as an issue perpetuating gun violence.
"I think it's related to gun laws, but the major issue of bail reform," Suozzi said Wednesday during a virtual press conference held in wake of the Buffalo shooting.
Suozzi used Saturday's violence to tout for the need for judges to have greater discretion in deciding a defendant's level of dangerousness. New York justices can place bail on defendants for violent crimes.
"We need to give judges discretion to consider dangerousness and it involves a lot of people with gun crimes," Suozzi said. "It's not specifically gun crimes, but it's related.
"Change the law in New York state to give judges the discretion to consider dangerousness," the congressman added. "It wouldn't have helped in the Buffalo case, but it's certainly so many other instances of crime that are happening regularly."
New York state Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs on Wednesday blasted Suozzi for the inaccuracy of his statements, and inappropriately politicizing Saturday's tragedy.
"For Tom Suozzi to politicize this weekend’s racist terrorist attack by blaming the governor demonstrates both how desperate his campaign is and how shockingly offensive his judgment has become," Jacobs said. "It is one thing to want to be governor, it is quite another to engage in the same type of sickening tactics we see almost exclusively from the worst of Republican candidates. Tom Suozzi’s remarks are both opportunistic and plain wrong."
Nyatwa Bullock, an organizer with Center for Community Alternatives, sharply criticized the campaigning congressman for spreading inaccurate information and failing to propose a solution to the rise in racist violence.
“Rep. Tom Suozzi’s statement is not only inaccurate and irresponsible, but it’s downright dangerous," said Bullock. "Rather than offering any support for the victims and their families or proposing actual solutions to racist violence, Suozzi has perversely chosen to exploit a mass shooting by a white supremacist to advance policies that will continue to disproportionately jail, harm, and even kill Black and brown New Yorkers. This is an exploitative and grotesque misrepresentation and abuse of the platform afforded to Rep. Suozzi. If he is so shameless as to trample on the grief of Black people for perceived political gain, Suozzi has no place in New York.”
Suozzi also stressed the need to educate law enforcement and the public about the failure of the state's Red Flag law, which allows people to anonymously report a person who could be a potential threat.
Lieutenant governor candidate Diana Reyna advocated to address loopholes in state and federal gun laws to prevent extremists and people with mental illness from purchasing firearms.
"What we saw on Saturday, we know that communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the crime crisis," she said. "When are we actuallygoing to do something about all of this? With the appropriate intervention strategies, tragedies like this can be avoided, but we have to believe such. Leadership matters."
“It’s an outrageous lie by Hochul supporters to suggest that Tom linked bail reform to Saturday’s racist massacre,” Suozzi spokesperson Jason Elan told Spectrum News 1 in a statement. “The transcript of Tom’s press conference shows this. Hochul clearly just doesn’t want to talk about her past support of the NRA or her hypocrisy on gun reform.”