PRESIDENT Barack Obama lamented the loss of America's "most innocent and helpless" to shootings, as he made an emotional return to Chicago to address the blight of gun violence in his home city.
Mr Obama was appearing at a school in his own neighbourhood to call for support in bringing an end to the bloodshed that claimed the life of Hadiya Pendleton, a teenager shot dead a few days after performing at his inauguration.
Speaking earlier while awarding posthumous presidential medals to the six staff killed alongside 20 young pupils in the Connecticut primary school massacre in December, Mr Obama paid tribute to those killed after having "no idea that evil was about to strike".
"When it did, they could have taken shelter by themselves, they could have focused on their own safety, on their own wellbeing – but they didn't," he said to an audience of tearful relatives at the White House. "They gave their lives to protect the precious children in their care and gave all they had for the most innocent and helpless among us. That's what we honour today."
Mr Obama highlighted the death of Hadiya (15) in his State of the Union address on Tuesday as he urged Congress to vote on proposals for tougher gun control laws.
Nate Pendleton, her dad, welcomed the president's visit. But he said a solution must come from communities standing up to gangs. "We have to find a way to make youths and people in gangs realise that life is precious," he said.
"It's like a PlayStation game to them but once you kill someone there's no going back. There's no reset button."
He said he hoped his daughter's death would be honoured by a renewed effort in Washington to tackle the issue of gun violence. (© Daily Telegraph, London)