First lady wades into debate over gun violence

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 10, 2013 at 4:09 pm •  Published: April 10, 2013
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The Senate was planning an initial vote Thursday to begin debating gun legislation, with some Republicans attempting to block consideration of the measure. Two pivotal senators announced a bipartisan deal Wednesday to expand background checks to more gun sales, which could build support for President Barack Obama's drive to tighten firearms laws. But the legislation faces strong opposition from the National Rifle Association and lawmakers who say it would violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

"Right now, my husband is fighting as hard as he can and engaging as many people as he can to pass common sense reforms to protect our children from gun violence," Mrs. Obama said to applause. "And these reforms deserve a vote in Congress."

Mrs. Obama was addressing Chicago business and community leaders at a luncheon hosted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, her husband's former chief of staff, who is trying to raise money to fund programs for at-risk youth.

Among those in the audience was Hall of Fame basketball player Isiah Thomas, raised in Chicago public housing. Thomas said the youth basketball leagues he participates in are critical to reducing violence.

"It's hard to kill somebody that you play with every day," Thomas said.

After her speech, Mrs. Obama visited Harper High School in the violent, gang-plagued community of Englewood. Harper was recently featured in a public radio documentary on "This American Life," which reported that more than two dozen current and former students were shot — eight of them fatally — in the last year alone.

"There isn't much distance between me and you," Mrs. Obama told the students. She encouraged them to take their education seriously.

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Pickler reported from Washington.

Follow Nedra Pickler on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nedrapickler