The assault rifle used to kill 10 at a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo on Saturday is the same model that was used to kill 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut a decade ago and that was used to kill 10 in sniper attacks in the Washington, D.C., area in 2002.
And so we begin the insane cycle again; mass murder followed by calls for a renewed assault weapons ban followed by ineffectual compromise followed by the sale of weapons of war used to perpetrate more domestic carnage.
“This is my Bushmaster XM-15,” Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old suspect in the Buffalo massacre apparently wrote below a photo of the gun in a pre-attack manifesto. “That’s right, I used the dread military grade assault rifle as my main firearm for this attack.”
The killer in Buffalo further echoed the Sandy Hook horror by writing in his manifesto of taping together two magazines for fast reloading. Taped magazines from the school shooting scene were crucial evidence in a civil suit the Sandy Hook families brought against Remington, which until recently owned Bushmaster.
For years, Remington fought to avoid being held responsible, going so far as to subpoena the dead first-graders’ Sandy Hook report cards. It finally settled for $73 million in February, just as it was going bankrupt and Bushmaster was being sold to a Nevada company. The legacy of murdered youngsters did not keep the new owner from prominently quoting the Bible’s Matthew 5:59 on its website as it continued to sell the same rifle.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be the children of God.”
Three months later, we have another Bushmaster XM-15 at the scene of a mass murder. The dead in this latest horror include retired Buffalo Police Officer Aaron Salter, who was working as a security guard. His death makes all the more reprehensible the name Bushmaster is presently using for that particular model.
Under multiple owners, Bushmaster has long marketed the weapon as an “M4” because it replicated the MP4 that Colt Industries manufactured for the military. Colt sued Bushmaster for trademark infringement in 2004, but the courts ruled that M4 had become a generic name. Bushmaster stuck with M4 even as some gun lovers derided its rifle an “M4gery.” And the “Patrolman’s” label adds a law enforcement connotation to the military fantasy.
Police sources say Gendron also possessed a bolt-action Savage Axis XP.
“This is technically my dad’s gun because he bought it for me so that I could go hunting without borrowing my cousin’s guns,” he wrote below a photo. “I got this for Christmas 2020 and it’s decent for the cheapest gun you can buy from Dick’s Sporting Goods.”
The Savage Axis XP is good for hunting and would be fine for self-defense. But for killing humans, Gendron wanted an assault weapon.
A hunting rifle that has a magazine capacity of four bullets and requires the user to work the bolt between each shot does not fit what the manifesto called “Strategies for Success.” No, that called for a firearm that “can fire ammunition as quickly as needed, can fire many rounds of ammunition without reloading and can reload quickly.”
So, as police tell it, Gendron stepped from his car in Buffalo with a far deadlier Bushmaster XM-15 that he legally purchased used at Vintage Firearms in Endicott, New York, near his home in Conklin. The owner would tell The New York Times he ran a background check, which triggered no ‘“red flags” even though Gendron came to the attention of the state police last year after he reportedly talked about plans for a murder-suicide. He was briefly hospitalized on a psychiatric hold, then discharged after a few days—and nothing prevented him from acquiring the gun of his choice.
The manifesto notes that the Bushmaster was modified to hold a magazine of no more than 10 rounds—the maximum capacity allowed under New York State law—with some parts bought online and installed with his father’s electric drill.
He had already acquired eight 30-round magazines. “I originally bought these from a guy at Jimmy's flea market for $5 each,” he wrote, adding that he duct-taped two magazines together.
“So that I can quickly reload.”
Police say that in the attack, Gendron emptied one magazine and immediately reloaded, just as the Sandy Hook killer did. He fired another 20 shots before he surrendered to police.
Police say Gendron personalized his weapon with white paint, writing a racial epithet on the sight. He put “14” on the body, a number that has particular significance among white supremacists.
On the barrel, he wrote the names of some of the six killed when a maniac plowed an SUV into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, last year. That assailant was black; the victims were white. Gendron shared the opinion of the far-right—but not the police or prosecutors—that it was a racist attack.
In his manifesto, Gendron wrote that a gun is the best instrument of mass murder.
’”Because they work, there are very few weapons that are easier to use and more effective at killing than firearms,” he wrote.
With his M-4gery of a weapon of war, he left 10 dead and a supermarket looking like a battlefield. And the gun company continued to make and sell the Bushmaster XM-15.
“Driven by the spirit of innovation that began more than 48 years ago, using improved engineering, manufacturing techniques, and advanced materials, Bushmaster™ continues to enhance our products,” the website says. “Bushmaster proudly defends freedom, as we are Proven in the most severe conditions. It will always be our mission to push the limits of performance, so that you can push yours.”
Just ask the loved ones of those who fell victim to a Bushmaster XM-15.