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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.'

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“That's part of the reason why you guys are in the program,” the president said to laughter. “But what I explained to them was, I had issues too when I was their age. I just had an environment that was a little more forgiving. So when I screwed up, the consequences weren't as high as when kids on the South Side screw up. So I had more of a safety net.”

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First lady Michelle Obama had attended Ms. Pendleton’s memorial service last Saturday, and Pendleton’s parents sat next to her at the State of the Union address. But the president has been under pressure for some time to visit Chicago himself and speak out about the gun violence there, amid the steady stream of news reports about gun deaths in his hometown, including children caught in crossfire on their way to school.

Obama’s former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is mayor of Chicago, and so Obama’s visit could have been perceived as awkward – highlighting Mayor Emanuel’s inability to get the violence under control.

But Emanuel used his introductory remarks Friday to tout some of his educational initiatives, including five new math and science high schools partnered with tech companies that give the students community college degrees. Recent news reports have suggested Emanuel might be considering a presidential bid in 2016, which he denies.

What the president didn’t say during his short visit was that Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, and yet its murder rate is on the rise. Last year, more than 500 people were murdered in Chicago, most from gun violence and much of it gang-related.

“The gun control vote in Congress that he’s urging isn’t something that would immediately change the gang violence,” says Dick Simpson, a political scientist at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

But supporters of gun control said Obama’s remarks still had value.

“You have to give people reason for hope and a feeling that there are solutions, otherwise you get more hopelessness, anger, and violence,” says Lisa Newman, who grew up in Hyde Park and was a speechwriter at the Department of Health and Human Services under President Clinton.

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