President Obama on Tuesday used a speech to police chiefs in Chicago to push for new gun control measures and criminal justice reform, and called for a specific change to the law making it harder for people to get around state laws by driving to another state.
"To make communities and officers safer, we have to work to prevent dangerous criminals in getting their hands ... on firearms," he said at the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Chicago, his hometown and a city that is often in the national spotlight for gun violence. "Police officers see the toll that gun violence takes on our communities."
Obama said fewer than 100 Americans have been killed by terrorists on United States soil since 9/11, but roughly 400,000 Americans have been shot and killed by guns over the same period. He also said gun policy is increasingly an issue for police officers, who are sometimes the victims in shootings.
"Fewer gun safety laws don't mean more freedom, they mean more fallen officers," Obama said. "They mean more grieving families, and more Americans terrified that they or their loved ones could be next."
At the same conference, Chicago Police Superindendent Garry McCarthy joined more than 20 police leaders from law enforcement agencies nationwide in a call for universal background checks for anyone trying to purchase firearm.
"This is not about legal guns," McCarthy said. "This is about guns falling into the wrong hands of criminals, and as a result people end up dying."
A Gallup poll released last week also found that 55 percent of Americans prefer stricter regulations on gun sales.
On criminal justice reform, Obama said it's unfair that law enforcement officers are expected to save society from societal failures such as substandard education to a shortage of jobs to an absence of drug treatment programs.
"Too often, law enforcement gets scapegoated for the broader failures of our society and criminal justice system," Obama said, avoiding making it about police versus the communities they serve. But he said that perspective only creates more division between police and their communities.
"I reject any narrative that seeks to divide police and communities they serve, that frames any discussion of public safety around 'us' and 'them,'" Obama said. "A narrative that too often gets served up to us by cable news seeking ratings, tweets seeking retweets or political candidates seeking some attention."
Obama said he plans to spend the rest of his time in the White House not just focusing on gun control measures, but new criminal justice reform measures and giving police the resources they need to mend the relationship between law enforcement and their communities.
"We do have to take a hard look whether in all circumstances the punishment fits the crime," Obama said, before adding he doesn't "have sympathy for violent offenders."
Obama pushed for strategies to reduce crime rates while working to high reduce incarceration rates in states like Texas, South Carolina and Connecticut, before praising the bipartisan criminal justice reform bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.
"Good community policing has to be a two way street. The community ... has to give police benefit of the doubt," Obama said, highlighting how both law enforcement and the people they police can work together going forward.