WASHINGTON, D.C. — From the theater shootings in Colorado to the nearly 500 homicides in his hometown of Chicago so far this year, President Obama is well aware of the deadly toll gun violence has taken on the nation. When he sat down with MTV News' Sway Calloway in the Blue Room of the White House on Friday for "Ask Obama Live: An MTV Interview with the President," Obama said he believes something needs to done to stem the deadly tide , which has, literally, hit close to home.
In one of the more dramatic moments of the half-hour special that covered topics on young voter's minds ranging from the skyrocketing cost of student loans to guaranteeing equality for same-sex, Calloway read a comment from Chicago native Raven, who described her city as a "war zone."
Calloway asked the president not only how he responds to charges from New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg that both Obama and challenger Mitt Romney are talking about gun violence but not suggesting any action, but also how he would personally respond to this epidemic if re-elected.
"Raven comes from my hometown and Chicago has seen a huge amount of gun violence, especially among young people," said Obama. "What I've said is that we've got to have an 'all-of-the-above' approach. We have to enforce our gun laws more effectively. We've got to keep them out of the hands of criminals. We've got to strengthen background checks."
Obama said his administration has done a lot of those things, but what also needs to be done is work with local law enforcement groups and faith groups and community organizations to ferret out that broader sources of violence in those neighborhoods.
"I live on the South side of Chicago," said Obama, who maintains a residence in the city's Hyde Park neighborhood, in which tony homes sit just beside some of the city's most economically challenged areas. "Some of these murders are happening just a few blocks from where I live. I have friends whose family members have been killed."
Clearly a personal issue for Obama, the president got more solemn when talking about the upswing in violent deaths in the city after decades of decline. "What I know is that gun violence is part of the issue," he said. "But part of the issue also is kids who feel so little hope and think their prospects for the future are so small that their attitude is, 'I'm going to end up in jail or dead.' And they will take all kinds of risks."
With that level of nihilistic thought, the president said we have to ask if we're providing those children's parents with enough support from an early age, and are those kids getting early childhood education so that when they walk into school every day they feel they can succeed? "If they've got mental health issues, are they getting the kind of services and counseling that they need early on?" he said.
"Are we making those investments in those young people so that by the time they're 11, 12, 13, 15 ... they can make responsible choices because they feel they've got something at stake?"
The bottom line, he argued, was looking at how effective we are at keeping those guns out of the hands of kids who are prone to shooting at each other and broaden the conversation about firearm violence so that these "kids don't feel as if they've got no prospects in life and end up killing each other."
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