In a speech that lasted roughly 26 minutes, President Barack Obama on Friday said his hometown of Chicago every four months suffers the loss of as many children as were killed in the Connecticut elementary school shooting.
As he did in his State of the Union speech earlier this week, the president said stricter gun laws could help stem the "mindless violence" that plagues cities around the country. And he called for more initiatives to improve communities and strengthen families.
"These are difficult challenges. No solution we offer will be perfect," he said. "But perfection has never been our goal. Our goal has been to try and make whatever difference we can. Our goal has been to engage in the hard but necessary work of bringing America one step closer to the nation we know we can be."
In his remarks at Hyde Park Academy High School, at 6220 S. Stony Island Ave., the president recalled Hadiya Pendleton, the teen who was shot and killed at a park nearby.
"Unfortunately what happened to Hadiya is not unique. It's not unique to Chicago. It's not unique to this country. Too many of our children are being taken away from us," he said in calling for the "commonsense" reforms -- comprehensive background checks and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines -- that he says most Americans embrace.
But he acknowledged that violent crime isn't just a gun issue. He said it's also a matter of building communities and shared and personal responsibility.
To strengthen families and communities, the president called for an expansion of early childhood education, the growth of programs similar to Chicago's "College to Careers" program, and tax breaks to business owners to hire and invest in rough neighborhoods.
"We all share a responsibility to move this country closer to our founding vision that no matter who you are, or where you come from, here in America, you can decide your own destiny," he said.
Two men have been arrested and charged in Pendleton's murder. Chicago police Supt. Garry McCarthy said 18-year-old Michael Ward confessed to being the shooter, telling police that Pendleton was not his intended target.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.