"Arm ourselves with a gun and I can love you, but if you try to come at me, I'm-a shoot you dead, and that's just how it's got to be," said Middlebrooks, whose mother, Cariol Horne, a former Buffalo police officer, lost her job and her pension in 2006 for trying to stop a fellow officer from putting a suspect in a chokehold.
"It shouldn't have to be like this," he added, "but it's got to be like this for the simple fact that you've got sick people out here that's willing to come to a grocery store from three hours away and kill our people, and it's pissing me off. ... You've got racist people out here that are rejoicing because 10 Black lives were lost."
Jarrold Anderson, a 33-year-old independent appraiser who left Tops roughly an hour before shots were fired Saturday, said people in his community don't want something like this to ever happen again. He lamented that young people in the neighborhood are forced to grow up thinking, "I can't go to the grocery store and be safe because I'm Black."
"If anybody does try to do that again in our community, they will be met with resistance," Anderson warned. "We're not all just fish in a barrel here. We are capable of defending ourselves."
A July 2020 survey conducted by National Shooting Sports Foundation found a 95% increase in firearm sales during the first half of that year. Retailers reported that the largest demographic increase was among African Americans, whose purchase of firearms had increased by 58% compared with the first half of 2019.
In the state of New York, costs for firearms licenses vary by county, and the process for obtaining a state license takes at least four months once an application is submitted. The list of eligibility requirements includes being "of good moral character," having "no prior felony or serious offense convictions" and having "a legally recognized reason for wanting to possess or carry a firearm."
While the conversations about gun ownership appear to be widespread on the East Side, it's by no means a universal opinion that more guns are the solution to feeling unsafe.
"Some people are all kumbaya right now, and some people are like, 'Nah, [forget] that," said Rhys Hall, who lives in a different part of Buffalo but whose father grew up in the neighborhood.
Ameer Mcbeth, a 27-year-old part-time worker at Highmark Stadium, home of the NFL's Buffalo Bills, and the KeyBank Center, where the NHL's Buffalo Sabres plays, suggested a better solution would be a larger police presence or a neighborhood watch program.
"The security guard who was out there who sacrificed his life because he was protecting people from that guy with the gun, we need more people that can do stuff like that," he said. "If we do, that will help save lives."