Obama has been quiet on Chicago violence

August 8, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The question is being debated in South Side neighborhoods where the president's political career was born: Why hasn't he condemned gun violence there as he's condemned it in other parts of the country?

Concern about Chicago's shooting epidemic did reach the federal level Wednesday morning as US Senator Dick Durbin (IL-D) met with West Side teens enrolled in a violence-reduction program.

"I think this problem is going to be solved block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood," Durbin said.

But Chicago Defender managing editor Kathy Chaney is demanding federal concern from a higher level. Her front page editorial calls on fellow South Sider Obama to speak out about the murder and mayhem in his hometown.

"It's something about this year, the headlines every single day," she said.

"He's been here, he's lived here so he knows the dynamics of it all. So, just give us something, respond, say something."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the president's former chief of staff, says despite Obama's Chicago roots, this is a local problem and not one for a national leader.

"As much as we can do for ourselves, we should, and the President of the United States has a responsibility as the president of the United States," Emanuel said.

The president visited victims' families in Aurora, Colo. to speak out after the movie theatre shootings. Chaney wants Obama to say something about violence when he's here.

"He can make it a talking point when he's here," she said. "You know, 'I'm going to Chicago, make sure that I say something, let me address it.' But, I've never seen that."

In the Hyde Park neighborhood near the Obama home, most people we talked to agreed with Chaney that Obama could do more.

"Yes, I think so," said Gerald McCarthy. "He lives here and anybody who lives here has that responsibility."

"I think it would be great if he came here and said something," said Cassandra Hudson.

"He has a little bit of history here," Bernard Scott said. "He does have the responsibility to keep up with things and see what he can do to help it."

Mayor Emanuel noted that aside from the president's stated concerns about mass killings in Colorado and later in Wisconsin, he has spoken in general about violence in big cities.

Senator Durbin wondered if Obama did address Chicago violence specifically, what difference it would make.

"A speech by him is not going to change the craziness going thru the mind of that gang banger," Durbin said.

There is no comment from the White House.

The president will spend late Saturday and Sunday in Chicago and will attend several fundraisers and social events in his Kenwood neighborhood on the South Side.

It remains to be seen whether he will say anything about gun violence in Chicago, which has made national headlines this summer.

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