CHICAGO (AP) – First Lady Michelle Obama will wade into the gun control debate Wednesday, visiting a Chicago school hard hit by gun violence as the White House mounts a last-minute push for congressional action.
At a conference on youth violence, Mrs. Obama will be joined by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, and a vocal advocate for tougher gun restrictions in the first lady’s hometown of Chicago. Later, she will meet with students at Harper High School, where authorities say 29 current or former students there have been shot in the past year. Eight of them died.
The visit comes as the Senate prepares to begin debate Thursday on gun control proposals drafted in response to the December slaughter of 20 young children and six educators in Newtown, Conn. The White House hopes that by rallying the public behind its proposals, Congress will feel pressure not to water down the legislation,
Obama and some Democrats pushed initially for a series of measures including an assault-weapons ban and limits on high-capacity ammunition magazine, but those measures ran up against staunch resistance from Republicans and gun advocates. The focus has since shifted to expanded background checks. Gun advocates opposed that proposal too, arguing it could open the door to a national gun registry.
Mrs. Obama’s appearance in Chicago, a city long blighted by high rates of gun violence, marks a rare foray by the first lady into a politically charged issue. But with the fate of the administration’s efforts still uncertain, the White House was mounting an all-hands-on-deck push to keep the public engaged.
Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder promoted the plan Tuesday at the White House, and Biden was set to make the case again Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” And the president traveled Monday to Connecticut, about an hour’s drive from Sandy Hook Elementary School, to warn Congress not to delay the legislation. Twelve family members of Newtown victims joined him on the return flight to Washington, where the families were to lobby members of Congress.
“The day Newtown happened was the toughest day of my presidency,” Obama said in Hartford, Conn. “But I’ve got to tell you, if we don’t respond to this, that’ll be a tough day for me too.”
Mrs. Obama returned to Chicago in February to attend the funeral of Hadiya Pendeton, a 15-year-old shot to death on the city’s South Side shortly after she performed at the inauguration ceremony.
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