"This is not just a gun issue," Obama said. "It's also an issue of the kinds of communities that we're building, and for that we all share responsibility as citizens to fix it. We all share a responsibility to move this country closer to our founding vision, that no matter who you were or where you come from, here in America, you can decide your own destiny."
Obama was a reliable vote in favor of gun control as a state senator in the late 1990s, with one important exception that contributed to his only electoral loss. While running for the Democratic primary for an House seat in 1999, Obama missed a vote on a gun-control measure that narrowly failed, an episode that he later said cost him any chance to win.
Gun control was not on his agenda in his first term, but the president responded quickly to the Newtown shooting in December. He is pushing measures including background checks for all gun purchases and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, even as both sides in the debate doubt he'll be able to achieve the full package.
"These proposals deserve a vote in Congress," Obama said in his Hyde Park Academy visit. It's rhetoric he also used Tuesday in the State of the Union address.
In Chicago, Obama mourned the death of Pendleton, whose funeral first lady Michelle Obama had attended. "Unfortunately, what happened to Hadiya's not unique," the president said. "It's not unique to Chicago, it's not unique to this country. Too many of our children are being taken away from us."
Critics of Obama's effort note that Chicago's spike in homicides offers evidence that gun restrictions don't work. The city prohibited handguns until a 2010 Supreme Court ruling threw out the ban. Chicago then adopted a strict gun ordinance that requires gun owners to be fingerprinted, undergo a background check, pass a training class, and pay fees that can be higher than the price of the weapons. Still, the city's homicide rate rose to more than 500 last year.
Gun-control proponents say Chicago illustrates the need for tougher restrictions nationally because guns are coming from outside the city.
Statistics show that more than half of the guns seized by Chicago police in the last 12 years came from other states. A University of Chicago study found that more than 1,300 guns confiscated by police since 2008 were purchased at a single store just outside city limits. More than 270 were used in crimes.