In Washington, calls increase for gun control, hate-crimes law

031721 Acworth: U.S. Army veteran Latrelle Rolling (left) and Jessica Lang (right) both pause to pray after dropping off flowers at Young’s Asian Massage where four people were killed on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Acworth. At least eight people were found dead at three different spas in the Atlanta area Tuesday by suspected killer Robert Aaron Long.  “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”
Caption
031721 Acworth: U.S. Army veteran Latrelle Rolling (left) and Jessica Lang (right) both pause to pray after dropping off flowers at Young’s Asian Massage where four people were killed on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Acworth. At least eight people were found dead at three different spas in the Atlanta area Tuesday by suspected killer Robert Aaron Long. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House member whose district includes the first massage parlor targeted by a gunman Tuesday night said he was grateful the suspect was quickly apprehended and praying for those affected.

“My staff members and I are horrified by the violent shootings that took place at businesses in Woodstock and Atlanta this afternoon,” U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, wrote on Twitter late Tuesday. Our prayers are with the families of the victims this evening, and for healing for those injured.”

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams represents the Atlanta neighborhood where two spas were attacked. She said the shooter must be held accountable but the wider issue of violence against Asian American people and Pacific Islanders, which has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, must also be addressed.

She noted that the House Judiciary Committee already had a hearing scheduled for Thursday to discuss this issue. And Williams supports a bill two Asian American lawmakers filed last week that would direct the Department of Justice to assign a point person to review COVID-19-related hate crimes. The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act would also provide additional support for state and local law enforcement agencies in responding to hate crimes.

“Those are immediate steps that we can take in Congress beyond thoughts and prayers,” she said.

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat who filed that legislation, also posted comments on social media about the Atlanta-area attacks.

“My heart breaks for the 8 people — including 6 women of Asian descent — who were murdered in Atlanta last night,” she wrote Wednesday. “This senseless act adds to the pain and suffering of the Asian community during a year of increased racism and attacks targeting AAPIs.”

President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer were also among those who released statements condemning the violence that appeared to have roots in misogyny. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said the news of the shootings gripped her attention and she hoped that her colleagues and people at home are watching, too.

“We still know that this risk of gun violence is out there in a big way,” the Minnesota Democrat said. “And that’s what you saw, sadly, in Atlanta.”

Klobuchar said she was happy Georgia voters recently elected Democratic U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who she said are poised to support gun control measures.

“I think we’re very lucky to have these two senators in place that are focused on sensible gun violence rules and background checks and doing something when it comes to the scourge of gun violence,” she said.

Warnock dedicated the first moments of his maiden floor speech on Wednesday to the eight victims and said the nation was grieving collectively. Afterward, he elaborated on what steps he thinks should be taken to prevent similar violence in the future.

“As you talk to the American people, there is commitment among gun owners and on both sides of the aisle for reasonable gun reform — for background checks,” he said. “And there’s a disconnect between what’s happening out there and what goes on too often here in the halls of this body.”

Wednesday’s vote in the U.S. House on the Violence Against Women Act, which is mainly focused on preventing domestic and dating violence, carried new meaning in wake of the shootings. U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, said he had the victims in mind as he voted in favor of the measure, which passed with bipartisan support.

“The shooting spree last night in my home state of Georgia only further demonstrates how critical it is that our government and our society work urgently to prioritize the safety of women, particularly women of color,” he said in a statement. “Asian women, Black women, Native women, all women are not safe in their communities, at their places of work or in their homes.”

Even before Tuesday’s violence, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux had been in touch with Asian American leaders in her district to discuss the slurs, vandalism and assaults that are too often the stories behind the stats showing an increase in violence.

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