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Emanuel defends Obama’s response to city violence

Updated: September 10, 2012 1:40PM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday defended President Barack Obama, his former boss, against those who think the president could and should do more to help stem gang violence in his adopted hometown.

Obama is coming home this weekend for a series of campaign fund-raisers tied to his 51st birthday.

Some people, including newly retired Chicago Sun-Times columnist Stella Foster, want Obama to use the occasion to speak out against the bloodshed that has occurred not far from his home and maybe even visit crime-plagued Chicago neighborhoods to drive home the point.

As former White House chief of staff and co-chairman of Obama’s re-election campaign, Emanuel is in a tough spot.

He probably would welcome some help — in the form of federal money to hire more police officers or the even tougher political task of reviving the assault weapons ban. But he dare not criticize the incumbent president he’s trying to get re-elected.

That’s apparently why Emanuel defended Obama when asked whether the president can or should do more to stop the gang violence that caused a 40 percent spike in Chicago’s homicide rate earlier this year.

“The president of the United States has spoken. The inference of the question is that he hasn’t. He just recently addressed incidents of violence throughout the country and he also referenced Chicago as it relates to making sure that we have what we need in our city,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel acknowledged that he has more work to do to make certain that “neighborhoods like Roseland are as safe as Ravenswood,” where he lives. But he’s not waiting around for help from his former boss.

“I’ve never believed . . . that our city, as it relates to creating its own destiny and building its own future, should rely on others. As much as we could do for ourselves, we should,” he said.

“That’s our response and we’re gonna do as much as we can on our own to take care of it. If the president chooses to speak to it, great. But speaking to it, doesn’t mean we’re not doing what we need to do. And I don’t want anybody to walk away thinking they’re not accountable or responsible — anybody. Police chief, mayor, pastor, principal, parent or community leader. All of us are responsible for the quality of life [on] our streets for our children.”

As a top aide to President Bill Clinton, Emanuel helped pass the Brady Bill and the now-expired assault weapons ban. As a North Side congressman, he worked to expand the Brady Bill to juvenile offenders with violent pasts.

On Wednesday, he was asked whether Obama has done enough to champion tougher gun laws. Critics contend the president and Republican Mitt Romney have both steered clear of the gun control issue for fear of alienating voters who could help decide a close election.

“The issue of crime is not about gun control. Gun control is a piece of a crime strategy” that also includes smarter policing, after-school programs, tougher curfew laws, stiffer sentences for repeat offenders and “values” that can only be taught at home, Emanuel said.

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