Dems to host urban gun violence summit

Citing an epidemic of gun violence in the nation's cities, a group of Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members will host an emergency summit this month designed to rein in urban shootings.

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Led by Chicago Reps. Bobby Rush, Danny Davis and Robin Kelly, the Democrats are inviting lawmakers, law enforcers and other stakeholders in the gun violence debate to join them at Chicago State University to brainstorm solutions to what they consider an under-reported national crisis.

"We're seeing television coverage of the disruptions in Cairo, but they pale in comparison to the carnage in Chicago," Rush said Thursday at a press briefing in the Capitol. "We will not tolerate this type of bloodshed on our nation's streets."

The announcement comes on the heels of Tuesday's meeting between President Obama and the CBC, where several lawmakers pressed the president about federal efforts to prevent gun violence.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) praised Obama's response to those questions, saying the president is "not ceding to anyone the idea that we cannot stop gun violence in our communities."

The power of the president to influence the gun violence debate, however, is very much in doubt. Obama entered his second term hoping to pass sweeping new gun control laws, but the issue has all but vanished on Capitol Hill since April, when the Senate shot down a background check expansion central to that effort.

The CBC members said their focus would go well beyond gun control, to include issues as diverse as education, unemployment, mental health, job training, community outreach and prison reform.

"Beside what we can do in D.C. with passing reasonable gun safety laws, we have to go to the neighborhoods to show people that we care," Kelly said. "That's what this summit is about."

The issue of gun violence has churned headlines in recent years following a rash of high-profile mass shootings, including last summer's massacre in a Colorado movie theater and the indiscriminate killing of 20 Connecticut schoolchildren in December.

Much more common, however, are the one- or two-victim shootings — often in urban areas — that rarely make the national news.

On average, there are more than 30 firearm murders each day in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The extent of the problem was highlighted recently in Chicago, where at least 74 people were shot — 12 fatally — over the long July 4 weekend.

The lawmakers did not specify who would be attending the Chicago summit, but they emphasized that the problem is hardly regional.

"This is not an isolated Chicago problem," Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said Thursday. "It's a problem for everybody."

The summit is scheduled for July 25-26.