On the eve of a harrowing anniversary, the racially motivated terrorist attack at a supermarket in Buffalo, the debate around guns in our communities rages on.
The sound of a gun strikes people different ways. Many have grown numb while others are traumatized. At a remote range — one group is trying to normalize it.
"I saw an opportunity to come back and assist my community with getting more involved in the Second Amendment," said Joseph Wooley. "Not looking at firearms as being bad."
Within the last year, Wooley, a U.S. Marine veteran, has taken to instruction and education for those looking to qualify for their concealed carry weapon permits with his 'No Paces Safety Club.' Eight more recently joined the ranks at a remote private range, including Jaylen Young.
"I was already looking to get my gun license," said Young, "Once that May 14 shooting happened, I just I had to be able to protect myself or any of my fellow friends and family members."
Because we'll never forget that it was family members taken on that fateful May day, including many senior citizens. It's prompted Wooley to see a rise in inquiries from an older clientele. You can see on the Facebook page for the organization, there is an 86-year-old graduate of the course.
"She had real friends at Tops who she would talk to on the phone every day and they would go for walks together," Wooley noted. "She felt just compelled - she's not a vigilante. She doesn't want to kill anyone. But from that happening she realized and recognize that could have been hurt."
People of all ages have their personal reasons for seeking the legal, registered way to contribute should the worst day of anyone's life strike them.
"The violence is getting out of control, just for the safety of me and my children," said one of the day's qualifiers, Marquita Crouch. “I am a mom of three. Things where I feel that U.S. citizens of the community sometimes need protection."
The racist attack in Buffalo didn't happen without a fight. Aaron Salter saw to that.
"When he saw the situation, he did what he was trying to do. He fired two rounds into the perpetrator center mass," said Wooley. [He continued to engage] but he wasn't aware of his perpetrators was wearing military grade body armor. Sometimes, we need help. When he was a police officer, he didn't do it himself. He had other brothers and sisters in blue and they all work together."
That's why there's a growing number in Buffalo, Western New York and the nation who are arming themselves.
"If I was ever in that situation, we could save our lives and save someone else's life," said Crouch.
This group can't stress enough that this isn't vengeance or looking for a fight, but steps towards being proactive in a way that they feel necessary.
"It won't bring anyone back," said Wooley. "But there was a situation that Tops Supermarket where maybe if there were just one more legally and responsibly armed, Second Amendment citizen who knew how to fire a firearm, just maybe it wouldn't have turned out as bad as it was."
Being numb or keenly acute tot the sound of a gun has been a fate readily associated with veterans like Wooley, so he's trying to give his knowledge and sense of security to a growing community still tackling issues that lead to days like May 14, 2022.
"The last thing we want is violence because we understand violence," Wooley said.
This group, and ones like it, are primarily offering classes that have multiple days of instruction on gun safety, as well as laws to keep potential gun owners knowledgeable. That instruction is always changing, and more is being added to courses and gun laws change here in New York and across the nation.