Obama wants focus on both police and civilian victims of gun violence

By Christi Parsons, Tribune Washington Bureau

President Barack Obama met Tuesday with families of slain police officers while in Chicago to try to persuade law enforcement officials to work more closely with communities they police.

But he also met with the families of children who have died in Chicago’s epidemic of violence as he attempts to focus attention on all victims — police and community alike.

While expressing sympathy, Obama also told the more than 14,000 police chiefs and others gathered that more could have been done for victims of violence.


“When I meet with these families, I can’t honestly tell them that our country has done everything we could to keep this from happening again, from seeing another officer shot down, from seeing another innocent bystander suffer from a gunshot wound,” Obama said.

Obama has met with victims’ families before and has paid tribute in statements and speeches to fallen police officers several times during his presidency. But his meetings Tuesday with family members of both officers and civilians were designed to emphasize that the tragedies are not limited to either police or community members.

Some 32 police officers have been shot to death this year, the president said, and at least a dozen children have been shot to death this month in the U.S. He cited the statistics after the morning meetings in a speech to the annual gathering of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

As part of an Obama administration push for criminal justice reform, the president is urging law enforcement officials to re-evaluate and try to improve their relationships with the communities they police.

At the same time, Obama renewed his call for tougher gun safety laws, with a special emphasis on the safety of police officers.

Lax gun laws don’t mean more freedom; they mean more fallen officers, Obama said, pledging to ask Congress again to reconsider failed attempts to pass gun safety legislation.

“If they don’t,” Obama said, “I’m going to keep calling on Americans to change the folks in Congress until they get this right.”


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