Obama on Atlanta shootings: We’ve neglected ‘epidemic of gun violence in America’

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Former President Obama said the U.S. has “continued to neglect” the “epidemic of gun violence” after a shooting spree targeting massage parlors in Atlanta left at least eight people dead, six of whom were Asian women.

“Even as we’ve battled the pandemic, we’ve continued to neglect the longer-lasting epidemic of gun violence in America,” Obama said in a series of tweets Wednesday. “Although the shooter’s motive is not yet clear, the identity of the victims underscores an alarming rise in anti-Asian violence that must end.”

“Yesterday’s shootings are another tragic reminder that we have far more work to do to put in place commonsense gun safety laws and root out the pervasive patterns of hatred and violence in our society,” Obama said.

The former president added that he and former first lady Michelle Obama were praying for the victims of Tuesday’s shootings and “their families, everyone grieving these needless and devastating killings.”

“And we urge meaningful action that will save lives,” he added.

Police in Atlanta said Wednesday it was too early in their investigation to determine if the shootings targeting massage parlors the night before were a hate crime.

Police have arrested Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man, as the suspected gunman in the case. Long has claimed the attacks were not racially motivated, saying he has a “sexual addiction” and that the parlors were a “temptation” he wanted to “eliminate,” authorities said.

While the investigation is ongoing, a growing number of lawmakers have warned of attacks targeting Asian Americans, noting that the country has seen a spike in violence against Asian Americans over the past year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stop AAPI Hate, a reporting center that tracks such incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said in a report released Tuesday that it has received nearly 3,800 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate since March 2020, around the time the pandemic began to take hold in the U.S.

Vice President Harris, the nation’s first Black and Asian American vice president, expressed solidarity with Asian Americans in the nation in remarks earlier Wednesday during a virtual meeting.

“Knowing the increasing level of hate crime against our Asian American brothers and sisters, we also want to speak out in solidarity with them and acknowledge that none of us should ever be silent in the face of any form of hate,” Harris said.

“We’re not yet clear about the motive. But I do want to say to our Asian American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people,” she added.

President Biden was briefed on the shootings and is expected to address them later Wednesday.

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