By STEVE BITTENBENDER
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – A New York congressman and Republican candidate for governor called for the state to reinstate the death penalty over the weekend in the wake of the mass shooting incident at a Buffalo supermarket where a gunman killed 10 people and wounded three more.
In a statement Sunday, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin said that Saturday’s shooting was “a brutal reminder of the raw, violent hate on the rise” in the state.
Authorities arrested Payton Gendron, 18, on a first-degree murder charge. Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said that his office would work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to determine if any terrorism or hate crime charges would be added.
Of the 13 people who died or suffered injuries, 11 were Black and their ages ranged from 20 to 86. Mr. Gendron, who is white, lived about 200 miles away in Conklin southeast of Buffalo. The Buffalo News reported Sunday that investigators believe Mr. Gendron scheduled the release of a writing outlining his beliefs just before the incident took place.
If convicted, Mr. Gendron faces life in prison without parole, Mr. Flynn said.
Rep. Zeldin, though, believes more options should be on the table. He noted that Asian Americans have been murdered in New York City in recent weeks, and other minorities have been the targets of violence.
“None of it is welcome here, in any form, and those who commit fatal hate crimes, acts of terrorism and other extreme violence should be brought to justice, and in some of these cases, the only fitting form of justice is the death penalty,” the Long Island congressman said in a statement.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, no execution has taken place in New York in 59 years. New York outlawed the practice after court rulings in 1977 and 1984 nullified laws that allowed for the death penalty in certain cases, such as the murder of a law enforcement or corrections officer.
In 1995, then-Gov. George Pataki, the last Republican to serve as governor, signed a new bill into law allowing lethal injection. However, the state Court of Appeals threw out the statute nine years later, and by 2007, the last inmate sentenced to death had their sentence commuted to life in prison.
Federal prosecution could lead to a death penalty.
Rep. Zeldin isn’t the only Republican gubernatorial candidate calling for reinstating the death penalty. Andrew Giuliani said the punishment “should be on the table” if a jury convicts Mr. Gendron.
“I will push to make sure that is an option for mass murderers and cop killers!” Mr. Giuliani tweeted on Sunday.