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 firearms. Mass shootings and street violence are on the rise, she wrote, and the 2021 incident she referenced was “another gut-wrenching account.”
On Saturday, Massey became a victim of gun violence herself.
Massey, 72, was one of 10 people killed and three more injured during what authorities are calling 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 bail. Gendron displayed extremist behavior online, law enforcement officials said, and is believed to have written a 180-page screed referencing racist ideology and citing several people who made national headlines for mass killings.
Massey’s death is a blow to the Black community in Buffalo, a former county legislator told the Buffalo News, adding that Massey had a “powerful voice.” She was passionate about education and known for dressing up in costume and going to the local schools, her sister, Barbara Massey, told The Washington Post.
“She was the most wonderful person in the world. She’d cut grass in the local park, do the trees, give kids on the street toys. That was my sister, anyone she could help,” Barbara said.
Massey was also a frequent contributor to the letters section in the Buffalo News. Newspaper archives show submissions going back to 1999, when she criticized the government for not providing enough funds for medical facilities for veterans. In the interim years, she wrote biting critiques of local officials and spoke out about 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 most uninviting of all the stations,” she wrote. “The walls, near the down-under seating, are an abstract of rusted, semi-painted ugliness. Sometimes the train rails area is strewn with soggy litter. The symphony music via the speakers, in that intimidating chamber of gloom, is a surreal joke.”
Massey had been concerned about gun violence for years, though she focused more on weapons trafficking on the streets. In 2018, she wrote a piece for the Buffalo Challenger, a Black community newspaper, about easy access to guns and the city’s unsuccessful efforts to arrest illegal firearms dealers. The article opened with a chilling description of people wailing in grief for “their loved ones — infants to grandparents — lost in the rampage of gun murders.”
She referenced similar themes in her letter last year for the News. Massey wrote that federal legislation is essential to addressing gun violence.
“Current pursued remedies mainly inspired by mass killings — namely, universal background checks and banning 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 lamented Congress’s inaction to repeal one federal law requiring the FBI to scrub records of firearms purchases 24 hours after someone clears a background check and another shielding firearm sellers and manufacturers from liability if someone uses their product to commit a violent crime.
Three months later she wrote about the issue again for the Challenger, this time outlining federal and local efforts made to curb gun violence.
“Hallelujah!” she signed off.