Buffalo shooting victim Katherine Massey writes newspaper letters about gun violence

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Last May, after a local official lost a family member to gun violence, Katherine “Kat” Massey submitted a letter to the Buffalo News calling for better federal oversight of guns. Mass shootings and street violence are on the rise, she wrote, and the 2021 incident she referred to was “another heartbreaking tale”.

On Saturday, Massey was herself a victim of gun violence.

Massey, 72, was one of 10 people killed and three others injured during the what authorities call a hate-fueled rampage at a Buffalo grocery store in a predominantly black neighborhood. Eleven of the 13 victims were black, officials said. The incident is being investigated as a hate crime.

Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old white man, was arrested and charged with first degree murder. He pleaded not guilty and is being held without bond. Gendron displayed extremist behavior online, law enforcement officials said, and allegedly wrote a 180-page screed referencing racist ideology and quoting several people who made international headlines for mass killings .

Buffalo gunman followed a long trail to terror, officials say

Massey’s death is a blow to Buffalo’s black community, a former county lawmaker told the Buffalo News, adding that Massey had a “powerful voice”. She was passionate about education and known for dressing up and going to local schools, her sister, Barbara Massey, told The Washington Post.

“She was the most wonderful person in the world. She cut the grass in the local park, made the trees, gave toys to street children. She was my sister, anyone she could help,” said Barbara said.

Massey was also a frequent contributor to the letters section of the Buffalo News. Newspaper archives show submissions dating back to 1999, when she criticized the government for not providing enough funds for medical facilities for veterans. During the intervening years, she wrote biting critiques of local officials and spoke out on education issues.

In a 2009 letter to the editor, Massey wrote a scathing review of a local train station, calling it “pitiful-personified”.

“It’s the darkest, coldest and least welcoming of all the resorts,” she wrote. “The walls, near the seats below, are an abstract of rusty, half-painted ugliness. Sometimes the train track area is littered with soggy trash. The symphonic music through the loudspeakers, in this dark and intimidating room, is a surreal joke.

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Massey had been concerned about gun violence for years, though she focused more on dealing guns in the streets. In 2018, she write a piece for the Buffalo Challenger, a black community newspaper, on easy access to guns and the city’s failed efforts to arrest illegal gun dealers. The article opened with a chilling description of people crying in grief for “their loved ones – from infants to grandparents – lost in the rampage of gun murders”.

She referenced similar themes in her letter to the News last year. Massey wrote that federal legislation is essential to address gun violence.

“The currently sought-after remedies primarily inspired by the massacres — namely, universal background checks and bans on assault weapons — essentially exclude the sources of our city’s gun problems,” Massey wrote. “Illegal handguns, via out-of-state gun trafficking, are the primary culprits.”

She also deplored the inaction of Congress to repeal a federal law forcing the FBI to erase gun purchase records 24 hours after someone clears a background check and another protecting gun dealers and manufacturers from liability if someone uses their produced to commit a violent crime.

Three months later she write again about the problem for the Challenger, this time outlining federal and local efforts to address gun violence.

“Alleluia!” she signed.

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