Obama to push for prison reform, gun control in Chicago

Obama, Prison, Criminal Justice reform
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Seeking to build support for a bipartisan criminal justice overhaul, President Obama will speak to a group of police chiefs on Tuesday in his hometown of Chicago.

But Obama also plans to wade into the politically divisive issue of gun control during his speech to the International Association of Chiefs of Police. 

{mosads}”He will continue to push for criminal justice reforms that will make the system smarter, more effective, and more fair, while addressing the need for commonsense gun safety reforms,” a White House official said in a statement. 

Obama is seeking to capitalize on bipartisan momentum behind reducing the nation’s large prison population, which could hand him a major legislative victory during his final 15 months in office. 

The president and Democrats argue mass incarceration has ripped apart families across the country, especially in communities of color. Republicans have emphasized the high cost of imprisoning nonviolent drug offenders. 

Obama asked Congress this summer to send him a criminal justice reform bill by year’s end. That effort took a step forward last week, when the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a proposal that would reduce certain mandatory minimum sentences. 

The legislation still faces a long road to passage — the House and Senate must vote on it. But if it reaches Obama’s desk, it would be a significant achievement given partisan divisions in Congress that have been deepened by election-year politics.

At the same time, Obama has vented his frustration at lawmakers for failing to pass new restrictions on gun sales following a series of mass shootings that have cast a cloud over his presidency. 

The White House is aware of the symbolism of speaking out on the issue in Chicago, where gun violence has reached record levels. The city had experienced 2,300 shootings this year as of the end of September, up by 400 at the same point in 2014. Homicides have jumped by 21 percent. 

“The problem of gun violence is all too familiar to our nation’s police officers and is a critical threat to public safety and their safety,” the White House official said. 

Obama said he would not be afraid to “politicize” the issue of mass shootings earlier this month after a gunman killed 10 people at an Oregon community college.

The president pushed for a package of new gun laws following the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which included expanded background checks and bans on assault weapons.

But the effort collapsed in the face of opposition from gun-rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, and Republicans in Congress who are united in the view that new gun laws would violate Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Obama is now weighing executive actions to impose new background check requirements on certain gun sellers. 

GOP lawmakers point out gun violence continues to plague Chicago despite having some of the strictest gun laws in the country. 

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday the Windy City is a “good illustration” of why there needs to be a uniform approach to gun control.

“It’s too easy for those with bad intentions to just cross the city line or cross the county line to go and make a handgun purchase that they’re prevented from making in some other jurisdictions,” he said. “Chicago ends up being a pretty good illustration for why those kinds of national laws are important to the safety of communities all across the country.”

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