Describing absent fathers as a contributing factor to gun violence, President Obama told a Chicago audience Friday that he wished his own father hadn’t abandoned him as a child.
“As a son of a single mom, who gave everything she had to raise me with the help of my grandparents, I turned out OK,” Mr. Obama said at a high school in his Hyde Park neighborhood. “But at the same time, I wish I’d had a father who was around and involved. Loving and supportive parents … that’s the single most important thing.”
The president’s father, Barack Obama Sr., was divorced from his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, when Mr. Obama was three years old. The president has said he remembers meeting his father only once, when he was 10 years old.
“There’s no more important ingredient for success, nothing that would be more important for reducing violence, than strong, stable families,” Mr. Obama said, “which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood.”
Mr. Obama visited Chicago to lobby for his gun-control proposals and for initiatives that he said would help struggling communities create more opportunities for young people.
“This is not just a gun issue,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s also an issue of the kinds of communities that we’re building.”
Chicago had 504 murders in 2012, a 16 percent increase from the previous year. Mr. Obama compared gun violence in the city with the murders in December of 20 first-graders and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
“There was something profound and uniquely heartbreaking and tragic, obviously, about a group of six-year-olds being killed but, last year there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city,” Mr. Obama said. “And 65 of those victims were 18 and under. That’s the equivalent of a Newtown every four months. And that’s precisely why the overwhelming majority of Americans are asking for some common-sense proposals to make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun.”
The president said his proposals for universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and a limit on the capacity of magazine clips “deserve a vote in Congress.”
He also spoke about 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago student who was murdered by a gunman in a city park a week after marching with her high school band in Mr. Obama’s inaugural parade. First Lady Michelle Obama attended the girl’s funeral.
“Unfortunately, what happened to Hadiya is not unique,” the president said. “Too many of our children are being taken away from us.”
Before his speech, Mr. Obama met privately with a group of students at Hyde Park Academy high school. Senior Lazarus Daniels told MSNBC that the president didn’t spend much time with them talking about gun violence.
“A little bit, but it was basically about how to overcome our problems, not too much about the violence,” he said.