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Mayor talks gun control at kick-off for 'Hadiya's Promise'

By Lolly Bowean and John Byrne

Tribune reporters

2:38 PM EDT, June 13, 2014

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel today called for a multifaceted response to gun violence in Chicago as part of the kick-off of a new organization run by the parents of a young girl whose shooting became a national symbol for the city's struggle with violent crime.

Emanuel spoke at the launch of "Hadiya's Promise," an organization started by the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, who was gunned down near President Barack Obama's Kenwood home in 2013. They say they will use their group to lobby for tougher gun control laws and work to organize anti-violence groups so their voices can carry as much weight as that of the National Rifle Association.

The mayor has made gun control one of the major themes of his administration at a time when shootings in the city have remained stubbornly high and become a political problem for him heading into his re-election campaign. In his remarks today, he hewed to familiar points about the need for tougher gun legislation "that reflects the values of the city of Chicago."

"The city of Chicago is not an island," he said as Hadiya's parents, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel Pendleton, looked on at the Martin Luther King Center in the Bronzeville neighborhood.

"Three-quarters to 80 percent of the guns taken off the streets are coming from outside the city: Downstate, Indiana, Wisconsin," he said. "Every weekend the Chicago Police Department takes more guns off the street than New York or L.A."

Emanuel has been frustrated in his attempts to push tougher state gun laws during his first term. And Chicago has lost a series of court decisions on gun control, forcing him to introduce an ordinance to the City Council to allow gun sales in city limits.

Emanuel has taken to talking about guns as one part of a response to violence that also includes family values, job opportunities for young people and education. He hit those themes today as well. "There's no one answer to this," he said.

"When you say 'What is the 'X'? There is no one thing or combination," Emanuel said. "And if you try to search for the Holy Grail, like that's the thing, you're missing -- there's a lot of things."

Hadiya Pendleton would have turned 17 this month. She was a student at King College Prep High School and a band majorette who marched in Washington as part of President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Hadiya and a group of friends were at Harsh Park in North Kenwood, taking shelter from the rain, when someone opened fire in their direction.

Her parents said today that “Hadiya’s Promise” will partner with national leaders and organizations to address the sources of anger and violence among at-risk youth.  The couple also unveiled a logo for the organization that incorporates the artwork of their slain daughter.

“In this past year, people have really come to bat for us,” Nathaniel Pendleton said. “We want to do our best to make our commitment to this cause as valid as it can possibly be.”

The public support “rejuvenates us and our whole sense of humanity,” he said.

The couple said they have gathered together a group of leading scholars, researchers, activists to develop effective ways to reach youth long before they become become involved in gangs or resort to violence.

“We’ve had a little bit of time to think and evaluate what we’re doing,” said Cowley-Pendleton. “We’re in this and we want to renew our commitment to Hadiya and this cause and movement.

“We are an organization that is pushing to get our voice out there and we want to see good things happen for our children," she said. "We want all our children to have a good future. We want to collaborate with other groups and make sure resources are available for the betterment of our children. We want to keep the people we love safe from experiencing what we’ve gone through.”

From the time their daughter was killed, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel Pendleton have been launched on a national stage. They have traveled the country speaking on gun violence and gun control, while also learning more about crime prevention tactics and effective youth guidance programs.