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Gun control alone isn’t enough to halt violence, Obama says in Chicago

Visiting a Chicago neighborhood he represented as a state legislator, Obama said violence is about more than gun control, 'It's also an issue of the kinds of communities that we're building.'

By Staff writer / February 15, 2013

President Barack Obama speaks about strengthening the economy for the middle class and the nations struggle with gun violence at an appearance Friday at Hyde Park Academy in Chicago.

M. Spencer Green/AP

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On paper, President Obama’s trip to Chicago Friday was just the last stop on his post-State of the Union tour, focused on strengthening the economy and building up the middle class.

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But the reality was much more.

It was a homecoming to a neighborhood Mr. Obama used to represent as a state legislator, in a city wracked by gun violence. And it was personal in a different way, as he dispensed fatherly advice to the schoolmates of Hadiya Pendleton, the honor student at Hyde Park Academy who was shot and killed last month not far from Obama’s house.

In his remarks, Obama linked the cycles of violence to the lack of strong role models and economic opportunity.

“This is not just a gun issue,” he said, speaking to students, teachers, and community members at Hyde Park Academy on Chicago’s South Side. “It's also an issue of the kinds of communities that we're building.”

The president called for improvements in public safety, school reform, tax breaks to promote hiring, and the replacement of run-down public housing. He also repeated his call from the State of the Union to boost the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour and establish universal access to public pre-kindergarten.

And he called on Congress to pass gun control legislation, in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre in December. But on the issue of guns, he added that there’s only so much government can do.

“When a child opens fire on another child, there is a hole in that child's heart that government can't fill. Only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole,” Obama said.

“In too many neighborhoods today, whether here in Chicago or the farthest reaches of rural America, it can feel like, for a lot of young people, the future only extends to the next street corner or the outskirts of town, that no matter how much you work or how hard you try, your destiny was determined the moment you were born.”

Obama also got personal, addressing some of the male students in the hall with whom he had just met privately before his speech.

“Stand up, y’all, so we can all see you guys,” Obama said, adding that he was proud of them for their participation in a youth anti-violence program at the school, because some had “issues.”

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