Watch CBS News

Gov. Kathy Hochul investigating why New York's red flag law didn't prevent alleged Buffalo shooter from buying weapon

Buffalo shooting suspect purchased weapon legally despite past behavior
Buffalo shooting suspect purchased weapon legally despite past behavior 02:27

NEW YORK -- One of the many unanswered questions about the Buffalo mass shooting is how the 18-year-old suspect was able to purchase his assault-type weapon despite New York's supposedly tough red flag law that should have alerted gun dealers to the man's erratic behavior.

As CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported Monday, about a year before Saturday's tragedy state police ordered him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

READ MOREBuffalo shooting suspect had plans to continue rampage, police say

It was less than a year ago at Susquehanna Valley High School when the graduating senior, now known as incarcerated individual 157103, made statements that should have triggered the state's red flag law any time he tried to buy a weapon.

Asked what he wanted to do after graduation, he said he wanted to commit a murder-suicide.

"That immediately triggered the state police coming there, talking this young person, taking him for a mental health evaluation, which did occur, and then they release him because he said he was only kidding," Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

But it wasn't a joke and now the governor is trying to determine why the 18-year-old just disappeared off the radar and the red flag law was ignored. The 2019 law allows anyone, in this case the state police or even high school authorities, to ask a judge to issue an "extreme risk protection order" that prevents someone for buying or owning a gun.

"I'm investigating that right now," Hochul said.

READ MOREBuffalo shooting suspect pleads not guilty after 10 killed, 3 wounded; Officials condemn "absolute racist hate crime"

A lawyer for one of the victims is furious.

"The problem with the red flag law is it doesn't mean anything. If the red flags pop up and no one pays attention to them, and you don't follow up on them, it's a worthless piece of legislation," Terry Connors said.

"There's a lot of blame to go around and they should own it and they should feel it because there's a lot of people suffering because of it," security expert Manny Gomez said.

Gomez, a former FBI agent, said that this case cries out for Washington to get involved because while the shooter is believed to have bought a Bushmaster assault weapon in New York, it's unclear where he got the kit to alter the magazine.

"The red flag law failed. Clearly, it failed in this case. It has failed in many other states and we need a federal control level at this point," Gomez said.

In an online post, the suspect said he modified the gun with a $60 kit so it would hold extra ammunition. A magazine that holds more than 10 bullets is illegal in New York.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.