By Justin Sink
A handwritten note from President Obama to the family of a Chicago teenager gunned down near the president's South Side home pledges to press on to end future incidents of gun violence, further indication the White House hopes to use the murder to rally support for new restrictions on arms.
"Michelle and I just wanted you to know how heartbroken we are to have heard about Hadiya's passing," the president wrote in a letter that was reproduced in 15-year old Hadiya Pendleton's funeral program and obtained by the Chicago Tribune. "We know that no words from us can soothe the pain, but rest assured that we are praying for you, and that we will continue to work as hard as we can to end this senseless violence."
First Lady Michelle Obama was in attendance at the funeral, as were Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama. According to the Tribune, the first lady met privately before the funeral service with over two dozen of Pendleton's friends and classmates, and separately with members of the grieving family.
The first lady's attendance was seen both as a sincere attempt to console the family of the slain girl — one of 42 Chicagoans murdered last month — and to rally support on behalf of a package of new gun controls unveiled by the White House last month.
On Friday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama's plan to go to the funeral "represents the feeling that the president and the first lady both have about what happened to her and the tragedy that it represents both in real concrete terms to her family but also symbolically because of the tragedy of gun violence that our country has to deal with all too often."
The administration will continue to advocate for the gun control package, which calls for universal background checks, and assault weapons ban, and a limit on magazine capacity, at a series of events next week. Vice President Joe Biden is slated to meet with law enforcement officials on Monday in Philadelphia, while President Obama will posthumously award the Presidential Citizens Medal on Friday to the six teachers and administrators who died in December's Newtown, Conn. elementary school shooting.