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N.Y. Gov. Kathy Hochul responds to shooting in her hometown


Ten people dead, three wounded, victims of a white man who opened fire in a Buffalo supermarket yesterday afternoon. Eleven of the victims were Black. An official said the gunman was motivated by racism. He's been charged with first-degree murder. New York Governor Kathy Hochul is vowing for swift justice in this case, and she joins us now. Welcome.

KATHY HOCHUL: Thank you very much.

RASCOE: What is the latest you can tell us about this investigation?

HOCHUL: Well, the investigation is unfolding, but in the next hour or so, we're releasing the names of all the victims that have been identified and families notified. It was an excruciatingly painful process. This person traveled over 3 hours with the intention of inflicting maximum damage, mass casualties on a community that was targeted by zip code as being - having the highest Black population within a three-hour range of the individual's home, along the Southern Tier and Buffalo, near the Pennsylvania border. So this is shocking on so many levels, but the intentionality - that this was not a random act whatsoever. He calculated this. It was cold. It was calculating. And it was cruel in its effect. And so more information is coming out about the manifesto, where he was radicalized - absolutely on social media platforms. And we're also watching to make sure that the social media, the leaders of these social media companies are going to take responsibility and do much, much more to do monitoring themselves of content that is placed on their platforms before it is spread. This is an act of white supremacy, terrorism and racism.

RASCOE: Erie County District Attorney John Flynn says he has evidence that may lead to a terrorism charge. So is that something you would support?

HOCHUL: Absolutely. And if not at the local level and under state laws - we believe it'll violate state laws - there are federal laws that would consider this - that treat this as domestic terrorism that even have stricter penalties. So there may be a dual approach to this. So the district attorney was first. But also, the U.S. attorney's office is very involved, as well.

RASCOE: So you're calling for social media companies to do more to curb racist content on their platforms. Like, what do you want them to do?

HOCHUL: I want them to have a trigger system - excuse the word trigger, but this system that would immediately alert individuals when racist content or of any manifesto type materials that shows a propensity or desire to harm others, to kill them, to maim them, to have, you know, mass casualties. This is all telegraphed. It was written out in a manifesto that was published on social media platforms. The information was there. They need to have algorithms in place that'll identify very quickly the second information is posted so it can be tracked down by proper law enforcement authorities. They have the resources to do this. They need to take ownership of this because otherwise, this virus will continue to spread. And there are copycat individuals who have seen what happened in New Zealand and in other cases where there's been racially motivated attacks on individuals, whether it's a synagogue in Pittsburgh, it's a grocery store in El Paso, or it's a church in Charleston, S.C. And Buffalo is just the next on a list. So this is not the first, but it is our strong and fervent desire that this be the last.

RASCOE: So there is obviously now talk about stronger gun control in the country. Buffalo Mayor Brown says he wants to see stronger gun control. What can the state of New York do to try to, you know, stop these shootings or prevent these shootings and do more gun control?

HOCHUL: New York state already has some of the toughest gun laws on the books in the nation. But what happened here is deeply concerning and calls out for a national response. The individual is able to buy an AR-15 in the state of New York legally, but that did not have the capacity to wreak the massacre that resulted here. What happened was this individual was able to go to another state, possibly Pennsylvania, which is literally 10 minutes from the border from where he lives, and acquire a high-capacity magazine...


HOCHUL: ...That allows 30 shots per round and have that added. So that's not legal in New York. So - but I'm going to continue looking at our gun laws. We're making some announcements on loopholes we found in a press conference on Tuesday.

RASCOE: That's New York Governor Kathy Hochul. Thank you for talking with us today.

HOCHUL: Thank you. Goodbye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.