TODAY   |  February 16, 2013

Obama gets personal in push for gun control

President Barack Obama went back to his hometown of Chicago on Friday and underlined the importance of cracking down on violence. “Last year there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city,” he said. “That’s the equivalent of a Newtown every four months.” NBC’s Kristen Welker reports.

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>>> president obama is waking up this morning in florida where he plans to spend the holiday weekend. on friday he went back to his hometown of chicago and made a very personal appeal to crack down on violence. kristin welker is traveling with the president. she's in port st. lucie, florida. good morning.

>> reporter: lester, good morning to you. this vacation begins after president obama spent the week criss-crossing the nation trying to sell the key messages of his state of the union address . but friday's speech was the longest, and it was personal. [ cheers ]

>> reporter: president obama went back to his hometown of chicago and called for an end to the violence.

>> last year there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city. so that's the equivalent of a newtown every four months.

>> reporter: mr. obama met with a group of at-risk male teens just before taking the stage. and in an uncharacteristic moment talked about the similarities between them.

>> i had issues, too, when i was their age. i just had a -- an environment that was a little more forgiving. so when i screwed up, the con common sense -- the consequences weren't as high as when kids on the south side screw up.

>> reporter: the president took a broader approach of solving the issue of gun violence saying the problem is rooted in economic inequalities and broken homes. on this point he got personal, too.

>> don't get me wrong. as the son of a single mom who gave everything she had to raise me with the help of my grandparents, you know, i turned out okay. [ laughter ]

>> but at the same time, i wish i'd had a father who was around and involved.

>> reporter: while this isn't the first time the president has talked about being raised by a single mom , political analysts say friday's intimate appeal may be indicative of a more aggressive president obama .

>> we are definitely seeing a different president second term than we saw first term. first-term president was cautious. second-term president having gone over the hump of re-election, visibly seems more comfortable being himself, being more assertive.

>> reporter: friday the president wiped away a tear as he honored the six teachers and administrators who lost their lives on that tragic day in december.

>> when that showed up for work at sandy hook elementary on december 14 of last year, they expected a day like any other. they had no idea that evil was about to strike. they gave all they had for the most innocent and helpless among us.

>> reporter: since newtown, president obama has made emotional appeals to try to harness momentum for stiffer gun-control laws. once he leaves this vacation, he will face that uphill paddle with congress, as well as a faceoff over the sequester. those deep spending cuts set to go into effect in just two weeks now. lester?

>> kristin welker this morning, thank