(CHICAGO) — Ahead of the groundbreaking of the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, former President Barack Obama reflected on the gun violence that has plagued the Windy City and said that he intends for his presidential library to be a part of the solution.
“Chicago alone can’t solve the gun problem,” Obama told “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts in an exclusive interview that aired on Tuesday, adding that Congress needs to pass “common sense gun safety measures.”
Gun reform efforts were repeatedly blocked by Republicans during Obama’s presidency and continue to stall in Congress.
President Joe Biden announced a series of executive orders in April aimed at addressing gun violence and called on the Senate to pass a pair of gun reform bills adopted by the Democratic-led House, including a ban on assault weapons.
“Chicago alone can’t stop the easy access and flood of guns into these communities. But what we can do is potentially give young people the sense that there’s another way for them to empower themselves, other than wielding a gun,” Obama said.
Reflecting on violent crime in low-income communities in cities like Chicago, Obama said, “The constant is young people, mostly young men, who have not gotten a good education, don’t have a good opportunity, are not seeing good role models, are living in neighborhoods that are frayed and fractured.”
A total of at least 2,688 shooting incidents have happened in Chicago this year, an 11% increase from the same period as last year, according to police department crime statistics. The city has recorded 602 homicides this year — a 4% increase from 2020.
Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown announced a new strategy to combat gun violence in July which includes a crackdown on illegal guns pouring into the city.
Obama said that tackling the problem is a “generational project” — one that he intends to address through Obama Presidential Center programs like My Brother’s Keeper, which works to create opportunities for boys and men of color in underserved communities.
“If we’re doing that in a systemic way, year after year, then over time, we can reduce these incidents of violence,” he added.
Other major cities across the U.S. are also grappling with a rise in shootings.
President Joe Biden announced a range of actions in June aimed at curbing gun violence, saying that violent crime has “spiked since the start of the pandemic.”
ABC News’ Bill Hutchinson, Rick Klein, Quinn Owen, Katie Bosland, Mya Green and Danielle Genet contributed to this report.
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