It has been a violent start to 2017 in Western New York. Police are investigating three gun deaths in Buffalo over the weekend, plus two other shootings - one in Buffalo and another in Lockport.
Buffalo Police say the three homicides were not random acts and involved individuals known to each other.
The first homicide of 2017 happened at approximately 1 a.m. in the first block of Byrd Way. The deceased is 22-year-old Xavier Wimes of Cheektowaga.
Killed in connection with the shooting on McNeeley Way is 25-year-old Alvin McDowell of Buffalo, which happened at 6:30 a.m. Sunday.
Police say the victim from the fatal shooting on Gold Street is a 30-year-old Buffalo female whose name is not yet being released.
The Upstate Coordinator for New Yorkers Against Gun Violence says the shootings most likely are not an omen for a violent rest of the year. Paul McQuillen says spikes of violence are typical during the holidays and warmer weather, but he says the community still needs to remain proactive - especially through this recent climate of divisiveness.
"So we have to teach a little more respect, especially as we go forward as we see a lot of hate crime being exhibited," he says. "When you're disrespected, you lash out and, if you have a gun, you're going to lash out with a gun. So this is a time for education and calming and intelligent talk."
McQuillen says New York actually is one of the safest states in the country as far as gun violence, because of its strict gun laws.
"In reality, New York State is the fourth safest state in the country for gun violence statistics," he says, "so when people try to tell you that more guns make you more safe, well the evidence proves the contrary. The states with weaker gun laws is where you have higher gun death rates."
However, as the new state legislative begins this week, he is hopeful lawmakers will take a stronger stand on background checks and gun trafficking, as the majority of gun crimes in New York are committed with out-of-state guns.
"The Attorney General recently released a report that showed that 74 percent of guns used in crimes in New York State come from out of state," he noted. "That's terrible. Why? We enact some of the safest gun laws in the country, but we're inundated with guns from Ohio and up the Iron Pipeline, so there has to be some kind of restrictions on gun trafficking, as well."
McQuillen is hopeful the new Trump Administration will enact "intelligent" national gun legislation that helps prevent guns in other states from entering New York. He also is hopeful the new state legislative session includes passage of a law mandating guns to be locked up when not in use, in order to help stop guns from being stolen, being re-sold and being found by children in the harm against others.