Violence against people of Asian descent "must end," former US president Barack Obama said Wednesday after a series of shootings in the Atlanta area left six Asian women dead.
"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," Obama said on Twitter.
A total of eight people were killed in three separate attacks Tuesday at spas and massage parlors around Georgia's largest city. A white 21-year-old male was taken into custody on suspicion of conducting the shootings.
Authorities in Georgia told reporters it might be too soon to determine whether the Atlanta area attacks constituted a hate crime.
"This is still early, but (the suspect) does claim it was not racially motivated," said Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office.
Anti-Asian discrimination appears to have risen in the United States over the past year amid the coronavirus crisis, which some Americans including former president Donald Trump highlight began in China in late 2019.
During his eight years in office, Obama was a proponent of increased gun safety measures and he returned to the issue on Wednesday.
"Even as we've battled the pandemic, we've continued to neglect the longer-lasting epidemic of gun violence in America," he said.
"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."