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Chicago gun violence center stage at Obama town hall

Chicago gun violence took center stage Thursday night in Virginia when President Barack Obama fielded questions and concerns by people from his adopted hometown at a live town hall meeting on gun control.

"Back in 2007, 2008, when I was campaigning, I’d leave Chicago — a city which is wonderful,  I couldn't be more proud of my city — but where every week there's a story about a young person getting shot,” Obama said at George Mason University. “Some are gang members with turf battles or sometimes innocent victims. Sometimes this happened a few blocks from my house, and I live in a pretty good neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.”

The event, titled “Guns in America" and hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, was held two days after Obama announced a number of executive actions addressing gun violence.
The town hall featured Taya Kyle, widow of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, who was killed by a gunman in Texas, and former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was seriously wounded in a shooting nearly five years ago.

Obama also fielded questions from three Chicago residents, including the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Catholic Church on the South Side and a vocal activist for gun control. He noted that at least 55 people have been shot and at least 11 have been killed so far this year in the city.

“It’s easier to get a gun in my neighborhood than it is a computer,” Pfleger said. “The reality is because many of those guns have been bought legally. … I don’t understand why we can’t title guns just like cars. If I have a car and I give it to you, Mr. President, and  I don’t transfer a title and you’re in an accident, it’s on me.”
Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, whose daughter, Hadiya, was shot and killed near Obama's Chicago home in 2013, wondered how guns can be kept out of the hands of criminals and asked about laws restricting sales across state lines.

Obama noted that Chicago has had strict gun laws but still grapples with widespread gun violence, which he blamed on lax gun laws in neighboring Indiana.

The final audience member to ask Obama a question was Tre Bosley, whose brother was fatally shot nearly a decade ago while helping a friend in a church parking lot. He shared his perspective as a black teen in an impoverished neighborhood.

“Most of us aren’t thinking of life on a long-term scale,” Bosley said.

Obama responded, “When I see you, I think about my own youth because I wasn’t that different from you. Probably not as articulate and maybe more of a goof-off. But the main difference was, I was in a more forgiving environment. If I screwed up, I wasn’t at risk of getting shot. I’d get a second chance. There were a bunch of people looking out for me and there weren’t a lot of guns on the streets.
“And that’s how all kids should be growing up, wherever they live," Obama said. "My main advice to you is keep being an outstanding role model to the young ones who come up behind you, keep listening to your mom, work hard and get an education.”

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