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Politics

Obama Talks Jobs, Guns At Urban League Meeting

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In the wake of massacre at a "Batman" movie premiere in Colorado, both President Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, avoided the highly charged subject of gun control. That changed last night. When asked about the Colorado shooting in an interview with NBC, Romney said tougher gun laws are not the answer.

Meanwhile, President Obama said more needs to be done to stop gun violence, but he offered no specific proposals in his address to the National Urban League meeting in New Orleans. It's a largely African-American crowd in a key constituency for his re-election campaign. And it's a crowd that welcomed the president's main message, which focused on economic opportunity. Here's NPR's Pam Fessler.

PAM FESSLER, BYLINE: Crowds don't get much friendlier than this one.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Hello Urban League.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)

OBAMA: Thank you.

FESSLER: If there's been any weakening of black voter supporter for the president over the past four years, it was nowhere in sight last night. Several thousand people waiting in line for hours, many arriving in a torrential downpour to see Mr. Obama, and to hear what he had to say, especially about jobs, although he mostly talked about opportunity.

OBAMA: That idea that everybody should have a fair shot, not just some. That this country is special because it has grown this magnificent middle class and has provided ladders of access for those striving to get into the middle class.

FESSLER: He said his administration has taken steps to help businesses owned by African-Americans and to boost education. He said college should be affordable for all students so they don't graduate saddled with debt. That was a remark that drew loud applause from the hundreds of teens in the audience.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Of course, that means all of y'all got to hit the books.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: I'm just saying. Don't - don't cheer and then you didn't do your homework.

FESSLER: He warned them that they'll be competing with a lot of young people, especially from China and India.

OBAMA: You know, they're not hanging out. They're not getting over. They're not playing video games. They're not watching "Real Housewives." I'm just saying, it's a two-way street. You've got to earn success.

FESSLER: On a more serious note, the president also talked about the need to control gun violence. Not only the kind that took 12 lives last week in Colorado, but the kind that routinely takes lives in many of the nation's cities. He called for tighter controls on who can buy a gun and said parents and other adults need to spend more time with troubled youth.

OBAMA: We should leave no stone unturned, and recognize that we have no greater mission as a country than keeping our young people safe.

FESSLER: The president's remarks came at the end of a three-day campaign swing that included several fundraisers. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was also invited to speak, but he went on an overseas trip. Most black voters are clearly in the Obama camp, and Kevin Willhoite of Atlanta says he has no doubt, he'll turn out in November.

KEVIN WILLHOITE: We're not asleep, and we can read between the lines, and so we know that he has done all that he could possibly do, and he needs another four years.

FESSLER: Pam Fessler, NPR News, New Orleans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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