With the nationwide debate over guns escalating, President Barack Obama is expected to hone in on firearm control during his State of the Union address Tuesday and visit his hometown of Chicago Friday to drum up support for his new proposals.
The White House announced Sunday Chicago's visit will be the last of three stops this week — which also include Asheville, N.C. and Atlanta — in the president's effort to push his second term policy plans and simultaneously address the gun violence crisis in his hometown.
"He'll, of course, also talk about the gun violence that has tragically affected too many families in communities across Chicago and across the country," a White House official said Sunday, according to the Sun-Times.
The first lady returned to Chicago Saturday to attend the funeral of the 15-year-old slain inaugural performer, Hadiya Pendleton. The teen's death grabbed national attention after she was shot and killed Jan. 29 in a park near the school she attended.
With the funeral over, Pendleton's parents are expected to attend the State of the Union address Tuesday. Sen. Dick Durbin also invited the family to be present at a Senate hearing on gun safety later this week. Charges in Pendleton's are expected to be filed as soon as Monday afternoon, DNAinfo reports.
The president's renewed focus on gun control comes at a time when Chicago Mayor and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is pressing for new measures of his own.
Along with Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, the mayor announced new safety measures and with tougher sentences for gun law violations in a Monday press conference.
Saying "gun violence is not exclusive to Chicago," the mayor and his supporters argued the laws on the books aren't going far enough to curb the city's gun violence problem.
"We need mandatory minimum sentences in illinois," McCarthy said. "I've seen firsthand the impact minimum sentencing can have on a major city."
The city's top cop also took aim at those in opposition to stricter penalties.
"I ask you to please stop adopting the rhetoric of the gun advocates: Chicago does not have strict gun laws."
Alvarez, who said "Our current gun laws are simply not working," pledged to direct her office to pursue the harshest sentence possible to "targeted groups", defined as gang members and their direct associates.
The trio called for individuals convicted of felony gun possession to serve 85 percent of the sentence rather than the 50 percent or less they currently do.
Emanuel, part of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, floated tougher gun laws to City Council last month. Among the changes, reports ABC Chicago: boosting the penalty for possessing an unregistered weapon to 90-180 days in jail and upping fines from $1,000 to $5,000 — with possible jail time tacked on — for gun owners who fail to report their weapons as lost, stolen or transferred. A City Council committee approved the proposal last week and the full council is expected to take up the matter on Wednesday.