He did not come to the conclusion lightly. There are casualties behind his convictions.
Akeel Kaid has never met Barack Obama. But if the president is looking for a face to go with his push for tougher gun laws, Kaid is a worthy case in point.
He is 32, a native Yemenite who owns Union Super Market on Buffalo’s East Side. He took over the place from his uncle, Ali Hababi. It was not a happy transfer. Hababi was gunned down in a robbery nearly two years ago.
It was not the first time that gun violence hit Kaid close to home. Fifteen years ago, his father – Karim Kaid – was shot dead during a holdup of the store he managed on Genesee Street. More than most of us, Kaid – 32, dark hair, medium build, dressed Wednesday in sweatshirt and jeans – knows the emotional price a bullet can bring.
“I think he is doing the right thing,” Kaid said of Obama. “Get these guns off of the street, and you will save people’s lives.”
Obama aims to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. His call for background checks on all gun buyers would, say gun-control backers, cut the number of guns on the street. New York State toughened its gun laws this week. But that does nothing to stop these weapons from simply being transported here from other states.
“It’s surprising to me how easy it is for anyone to get a gun,” Kaid told me as he stood behind the store’s bulletproof plexiglass counter. “If it wasn’t so easy, these criminals wouldn’t have them.”
The corner store, a block from School 8, sells everything from bread to windbreakers. It also has served as a de facto firing zone. In 2005, the store was sprayed with 15 rounds from an AK-47 assault rifle – a weapon Obama wants to ban – in a drive-by shooting that wounded three people.
Kaid has no illusions about street guns suddenly vanishing. But he thinks that making it tougher for punks to get pistols will help.
“Anything that will make it harder for people to go out on the street and buy a gun, that’s good,” he told me.
Kaid is no bleeding-heart liberal or socialist, to use the overheated rhetoric of NRA hard-liners. He does not want to rip the rifles from the hands of hunters or deprive responsible people of personal-protection pistols. He just wants what a lot of us want: common-sense laws to help keep guns out of the wrong hands.
“I don’t mind waiting” for a background check, he said of Obama’s effort against gun violence. “It’s OK to have a gun, to protect your family or a private business. But you have people walking around on the street with a gun in their pocket, they have no license.”
Kaid spent $10,000 for the bulletproof counter glass after his uncle’s killing, and he keeps a shotgun behind the counter. He wants city officials to put a security camera at the corner.
Despite the bulletproof glass and the shotgun, Kaid said his customers are “good people” who have become friends. While we spoke, he stopped to grab an item off a high shelf for a woman and bantered with a man buying lottery tickets.
After his uncle’s killing, sympathetic neighbors left flowers, cards and stuffed animals outside the store.
“There are a lot of nice families in this neighborhood,” he said. “All of these guns, it’s wrong.”
Akeel Kaid’s words carry the weight of sorrow and sacrifice. First his father. Then his uncle.