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Obama delivers message tough on guns
By Ashahed M. Muhammad
Contributing Writer
Updated Aug 5, 2007 - 1:36:00 PM

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‘Our playgrounds have become battlegrounds’

Obama delivers message tough on guns; advocates phased withdrawal from Iraq

Democratic Presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama speaks at Vernon Park Church in Chicago, Illinois on July 15th 2007. The Illinois senator recently announced his urban agenda aimed at combating urban poverty.
CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) - Just days prior to announcing his urban agenda aimed at combating urban poverty, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama entered Vernon Park Church of God on July 15 to a thunderous applause from a supportive crowd with a message challenging the gun lobby, criticizing the Bush administration and issuing a call to action for Black men.

“Our playgrounds have become battlegrounds. Our streets have become cemeteries. Our schools have become places to mourn the ones we’ve lost,” said the Illinois senator. “I’m sick and tired of seeing our young people gunned down.”

Sen. Obama decried the inaction on the part of the Bush administration to ban assault rifles, mentioning that the nearly three dozen children killed in Chicago this year is higher than the number of Illinois servicemen who have died in Iraq.

“Think about that. At a time when we’re spending $275 million a day on a war overseas, we’re neglecting the war that’s being fought in our own streets,” he said.

Among those in attendance were former Chicago Mayor Eugene Sawyer, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. and the grandmother of 13-year-old Schanna Gayden—a young girl who was recently gunned down in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago.

“All of us have been touched by [gun] violence in some way and he’s doing something about it,” said Rev. Jerald January, Senior Pastor of Vernon Park church founded by legendary Chicago religious leaders Claude and Addie Wyatt. Rev. January told the standing room audience that he was personally touched by this problem, losing his mother and younger brother to gun violence.

After directing most of his comments at the powerful gun lobby led by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Bush administration for the explosion of guns on the streets, Sen. Obama issued a call to action for the Black community in general and Black men in particular.

“We also have to recognize that part of the reason that guns are so deadly in our society and in our communities in particular is because we’ve got young men standing on the streets without anything else better to do than gangbang,” he said. “We need to express our collective anger through collective action.”

Advocating phased withdrawal from Iraq

Holding a press conference after his brief comments at the church, Sen. Obama was circumspect and pragmatic in his approach to this politically nuanced issue emerging as the main topic of the presidential election for both Democrats and Republicans.

“There are no good options in Iraq at this point. There are bad options and worse options. I think the worst option would be to perpetuate our current military occupation there having our troops on the ground. They have become a magnet for terrorist activity; they are fanning the flames of anti-American sentiment and they are taking pressure off the Iraqi factions to come together and arrive at a peaceful accord,” Sen. Obama said.

Among the approaches advanced as possible solutions, Sen. Obama clearly endorsed the phased withdrawal approach saying, “If we begin a phased withdrawal, then there is the possibility of a spike in violence in the short term, but over the long term, I think there is a greater possibility that the parties will recognize that America is not going to be here to keep the lid on things.”

Sen. Obama added that he thought Iran and Syria would become more “constructive” in achieving peace in the region during the coming months if a phased withdrawal were to occur.


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