April 10th, 2013
04:17 PM ET
10 years ago

Michelle Obama makes emotional entrance into gun debate

(CNN) - Returning to her hometown of Chicago Wednesday, Michelle Obama wove a deeply personal story of her upbringing in the city that also delved into the latest subject dividing Washington lawmakers – the battle over gun control.

In emotional remarks, the first lady recalled the shooting death of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old who was murdered a week after performing in Washington during President Barack Obama's inauguration. Saying Pendleton "was me, and I was her," Obama reflected on the opportunities that led her to the White House instead of a similar fate.

"I had adults who pushed me, I had activities that engaged me, schools that prepared me to succeed, communities that supported me," she said. "A neighborhood where I felt safe. And in the end, that was the difference between growing up and becoming a lawyer, a mother, the first lady of the United States, and being shot dead at the age of fifteen."

MORE: Family of slain Chicago teen welcomes gun control debate

Her remarks were made at a luncheon fundraiser for a new initiative seeking to curb youth violence in Chicago. Later in the day she met with teenagers at Harper High School, where 29 students, past and present, have been shot in the past year, according to the White House. Eight of those students died.

"One of the reasons why I like to talk to kids, especially from my city, is to make sure you all know that there isn't much distance between me and you. There really is not," she told the students, saying she was visiting the high school to "do a lot of listening."

"I want to learn about what's going on in your lives, what's going on in your school, your communities. I want you to tell me what you think I need to know, to tell the president, to tell the rest of the country. So I'm really here to listen," she said in brief remarks at the beginning of her visit. The remainder of her time at Harper High was closed to the news media.

The first lady's speech and school visit came amid heated discussions in Washington over tightening gun laws nationwide, a debate prompted by the December shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. While a deal on expanding background checks emerged Wednesday, other measures – such as bans on assault weapons and large ammunition magazines – appear destined for failure.

The White House redoubled its push for tighter gun laws this week, scheduling a presidential speech Monday miles from the site of December's shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder delivered remarks to law enforcement officers Tuesday.

During her address, the first lady made quick, but powerful, mention of the debate among elected officials on gun control, saying her 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."

"These reforms deserve a vote in Congress," she continued, repeating a call President Obama also made during his speech in Connecticut on Monday. "If there is even one thing we can do, even one step we can take to save another child or another parent from the grief that has visited families like Hadiya's and so many others here today, then don't we have an obligation to try?"

The direct reference to an ongoing legislative debate in Washington was a departure for Mrs. Obama, who as first lady has focused on core issues of children's nutrition and military veterans. Gun violence, however, is something both Obamas have said affects them personally, a fact apparent during Michelle Obama's speech Wednesday.

While her husband cited his "overwhelming grief" as a parent following the Newtown shooting in December, the first lady evoked elements of her own life growing up on Chicago's South Shore.

"I started out with the same aptitude, exactly the same emotional, intellectual capabilities as so many of my peers, and the only thing that separated me from them was I had a few more advantages than some of them did," she said.

Filed under: Gun control • Michelle Obama
soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Open the White House doors – that house does not belong to you.
    Indeed it does for the next 3+ years because WE, the true owners of THAT house put her, her husband, her children and however the hell else she wants to reside there with our legitimate -NOT SUPREME COURT MANDATED – but legitimate vote.
    I got a few words for you too freedom but CNN won't print them.

    April 10, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  2. Wildman

    Well this does it for me. Big Bird has spoken and I now believe in 'resonable, common sense gun safety (i.e, control). SURE! Same old B.S.

    April 10, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  3. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    That should've been "whoever the hell else", but you all knew that already. Pardon me.

    April 10, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  4. tp


    "Michelle go back to your garden and leave the real work to us men folks."

    Well stated. I am sure that you have put a lot of grins on folk's faces that can't comprehend when a good person is trying to do something positive for the entire country, even you!

    April 10, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  5. WouldYouLookAtThat


    the government need to do what michelle say and ban guns-i'm tired of all these shootings with guns. the government should stop all gun sales right now.
    run into something sharp before you pro-create and spread stupidity to a new level.

    April 10, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  6. CrewMom

    How many young people were killed by senseless gun violence in Chicago in the four years before Ms Pendelton was shot? Why has it taken Mrs Obama this long to return to her hometown to speak out against gun violence?

    April 10, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  7. Thomas

    And unless they pass a law making it mandatory for mental health professionals to enter into NICS the names of potentially dangerous people then extended background checks won't do squat. What happens if the psycho never sees a psych doctor? And the AR-15 was FOUND IN THE TRUNK!!!! Stop with the lies already Mr. and Mrs. Obama. Do something constructive in your 8 years of presidency instead of trying to pass Obama-Ban and Obama-Care.

    April 10, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  8. mike

    HAHAHA! Asking for more gun control in Chicago is a little bit like asking for more taxes in California. That horse died a LONG time ago. But the libs keep whipping it.

    April 10, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  9. darth vader's daughter

    Gun violence goes hand in hand with back door banking, you have to have money to purchase the gun and bullets, and you don't get it over the counter, but check the back door and under the table.
    Get down there First Lady, and see where the money is to purchase those guns.

    April 10, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  10. snj

    A much needed plea for an end to senseless gun violence by our First Lady Michelle Obama.

    April 10, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  11. sonnie3

    All that they propose can't stop one more needless killing
    It is the crazy people who are inflicting the death of little girls and boys
    All that this legislation does it make it one step closer to total confiscation of gun for all law abiding persons.
    Why are the democrats so hell bent on this strike against the 2nd Amendment that is not to be infringed?
    It is because they know that Big Government is falling out of favor and they don't want anybody to do anything about what they are doing, so they must disarm us to continue on to a dictator style government. Sad but True The fear for there own lives.

    April 10, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  12. AprilElaine

    @Plain&Simple I couldnt agree more! Ive thought this same thing. I guess people dont look at the BIGGER picture. If these laws that are trying to be enforced can save ONE life, then dont you think its worth it? And im getting tired of seeing people state that the government is trying to take their guns away.. NO ONE IS GOING TO TAKE GUNS AWAY!!! They are just trying to make the United States a safer place for everyone, anyone who can not see that... I feel sorry for you.

    April 10, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  13. Fourleaf Tayback

    Gun control in Chicago...where Michelle is from, is as tough as it gets in this country....It doesn't work. Maybe Michelle should use her clout to ask her people to stop killing each other.

    April 10, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  14. BO

    She could scrape peanut butter off the bottom of the jar with those buck teeth.

    April 10, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  15. Surprised

    Oh, have her Secret Service agents given up their guns? How about the President's agents? Malia and Sasha's? Why should they have people to protect them, but normal people can't protect their own homes and loved ones? No, I don't have any guns, but I will defend everyone else's rights to have them, if they so desire. When the criminals start following the laws, I will rethink my position.

    April 10, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  16. BO

    Who cares what Michelle has to say?

    April 10, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  17. Jim d

    How can you write this piece and not mention the shooter? It's the guns fault this innocent kid was shot, right?
    The unreported part of the story is the banger who murdered the girl has been arrested, numerous times for gun crimes which were not prosecuted, they were dropped!! All you dimwited lefties need to go away. The real cause of this mess is the failed liberal experiment called welfare, but keep blaming law abiding citizens for your cluelessness.

    April 10, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  18. Bleh1964

    It is amazing how all the Obama supporters cry out for gun control, and tell us to leave MOB (MichelleOb) alone for speaking out on gun control, but yet when the want to rip a conservative it is fine for them to become ignorant, insulting, and down right rude. I don't see a bunch of "Democrats" running to turn their guns in. Here is a notion, instead of trying to take the guns out the people who pass checks and are responsible, why doesn't Obama disarm the bloods, crips, MS13, bandito's, and all the other gangs that thumb their nose at the law. Hey, let's even outlaw drunk driving and rape, because i'm sure no one will do it once we do!!! Incredible.

    April 10, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  19. Actually

    It's like grade school. "If the 2 of you cant be quiet then the whole class loses recess." The few dummies out here playing shoot em up are ruining it for all you 2nd amendment protectors. Guess what, they are coming for your stash and yes they will eventually take them away. There are only a handfull that will rise against, and they will be dealt with...the rest of all the whining is really jsut hot air, sorry.

    April 10, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  20. BobK

    First, Open the White House to the OWNERS! Second, Answer this basic Question. Why, with all of the Firearms Laws and Restrictions is it 100 times more likely that a person will be shot and injured or killed in Chicago than they will be in Afghanistan? Also why can we not require that Mental Health Professionals report to a data base that would be accessed by the Federal Background check those individuals that are under treatment and could be a threat to themselves or others and in the same token the Reporting Professional would need to update the report annually in order for the individual to remain on the list. They would also be required to have the person taken off of the list upon them being released from Mental Health Care due to the problem being resolved. This would reinstate their rights. Let's face it, if you are on a No Fly List that is reported and effects your ability to purchase a firearm. the Tool is not the problem, fortifying the existing laws and above all Enforcing them will go a long way!!

    April 10, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  21. Jackie

    Racism and ignorance runs deep as I read the comments of hate toward our current First Lady Michelle as even our former First Lady Laura Bush was there to give her views. Would the opinion but the same for Laura as Michelle? Our First Ladies stepped forward with Americans still attacking Michelle. President Bush is out of politics and is going to give a speech on Economy and recover to get balance budgets/surplus as it was announced he will speak at the Morgono Casino in California. This is one of the most important subjects the US, States and Cities have today and President Bush will given his advice on how to clean this up.

    April 10, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  22. freedom


    They're not talking points. We live in a free country and this White House is attempting to take away our freedoms – daily – and you believe THEIR drivel – which is why we're in this mess. Just sit there and don't think for yourself, and one day, you'll have no rights – the government will own you.

    April 10, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  23. Geoff

    Interesting that she makes a plea for stricter gun control laws in a city with some of the strictest gun control laws in the country and yet also one of the highest murder rates. Yeah, more laws work wonders lady – NOT!

    April 10, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  24. Kanageloa

    I think she needs to run for office or shut up. Using her pseudo position of importance is nauseating. One good thing for Mrs. Obama, she's better than Hillary Clinton.

    April 10, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  25. Vikki G

    My question is was it law abiding citizens that had properly purchased the guns that killed those she mentions or the thugs that plague the streets of Chicago who bought their guns in back alleys that killed them? Not everyone who has bought a weapon through the proper process is going to around shooting people. I am really getting sick of hearing about how they want to restrict those of us that do it the right way but they aren't doing anything to stop those who aren't. You want to prove to me that you are serious about gun control then go to the drug dealers house and take their guns, go to the gang members house and take their guns. If the gun crimes have not gone down after doing that then I will consider supporting your gun bill but until you get rid of the illegal gun ownership don't mess with those of us that did it the right way!!!

    April 10, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
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