Obama says Atlanta shooting shows need for ‘common sense gun safety laws’

Former US president calls for ‘rooting out of the pervasive patterns of hatred and violence’ in society

Gino Spocchia
Thursday 18 March 2021 14:16

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Barack Obama has appealed for “common sense gun safety laws” in the wake of the Atlanta shooting on Tuesday, in which eight people were killed — six of whom were women of Asian decent.

The suspect, 21 year-old Robert Aaron Long, was arrested and charged in the aftermath of the shootings, which appeared to target the Asian community in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia.

Addressing the fatal incident on Wednesday, the former US president wrote on Twitter that America was far from removing “patterns of hatred” and reforming laws around gun safety.

"Even as we've battled the pandemic, we've continued to neglect the longer-lasting epidemic of gun violence in America," wrote Mr Obama, who has spoken vocally about the need for reform of the country’s gun laws after leaving office.

"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 common sense gun safety laws and root out the pervasive patterns of hatred and violence in our society," Mr Obama added.

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The remarks came as the White House on Wednesday said there was “no question” that the “damaging rhetoric” of former US president Donald Trump played a role in rising threats against Asian-Americans.

According to a recent report by nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate, the number of reported anti-Asian crimes increased by nearly 150 per cent in 2020, following the former president’s remarks about Covid as the “China virus”, among other names.

“Calling Covid the 'Wuhan virus' or other things — led to perceptions of the Asian-American community that are inaccurate, unfair [and] has elevated threats against Asian Americans, and we’re seeing that around the country," said press secretary Jen Psaki.

US president Joe Biden, meanwhile, denounced a rise in anti-Asian-American sentiment in recent days, and described it as being “un-American” during a prime time television address.

The remarks came a month after the Biden White House released a statement that pledged to reform gun control laws and "will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call."

Democrats, who control both the House and the Senate, could still act on the promise to introduce such reforms.

Authorities say the Atlanta suspect, Mr Long, was said to have a “sexual addiction”, and investigations into the shooting, and the motivations for it, are continuing.

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