WASHINGTON -- The mother of slain Chicago teenager Hadiya Pendleton on Friday released a public service advertisement urging members of Congress to support gun-control legislation.
"When my daughter Hadiya performed at the president’s inauguration, it was the happiest day of her life," Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton says in the ad, her voice narrating video clips of President Barack Obama's inauguration and photos of her daughter. "A week later, she was murdered. Gunned down near her school."
Pendleton, whose daughter was an innocent bystander to gang-related violence, says, "Congress is debating how to fix our gun laws [and] they can start with background checks for all gun sales, [so] no parent has to go through this heartbreak."
The advertisement was produced by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an advocacy group funded largely by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a staunch advocate of gun control.
“There are far too many children in this country being gunned down and there are far too many heartbroken parents like Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton who are left wondering why," Bloomberg said in a statement Friday. "For the sake of our children’s safety, Congress must act now to pass common-sense measures -– like background checks for every gun sale -– that will help save lives.”
Since her death in late January, Pendleton has become a national symbol of the thousands of innocent victims of gun violence in the U.S. every year. First lady Michelle Obama, a Chicago native, attended Pendleton's funeral last weekend, and her parents were guests of the first lady at the president's State of the Union address Tuesday night.
The president invoked Pendleton's memory Friday at the beginning and end of an unusually emotional speech he delivered in Chicago, telling an audience of schoolchildren, "what happened to Hadiya is not unique. It's not unique to Chicago, and it's not unique to this country. Too many of our children are being taken away from us."
The advertisement marks a new level of public outreach by Pendleton's parents, Cleopatra and her husband Nathaniel Pendleton, who last week joined more than 120 survivors of those affected by gun violence for an event in Washington sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
The attendees sought to encourage members of Congress to pass gun-control measures being debated in the Senate. The measures include universal background checks for gun purchases, expanded mental health services at the state and local levels, and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity gun magazines.
Public service advertising is just one part of Bloomberg's broad strategy to encourage lawmakers and the public to support tougher gun-control laws. Campaign finance reports filed Friday revealed that a super PAC financed by the New York mayor has spent twice as much in the Illinois special election to replace former Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D) than all the other candidates combined.
The group, Independence USA PAC, spent $1.3 million through Feb. 13, all of it used to oppose Democrat Debbie Halvorson, a former congresswoman who received an "A" rating while in office from the National Rifle Association.