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Family of slain Chicago teen welcomes gun control debate

By CNN Staff
February 1, 2013 -- Updated 1047 GMT (1847 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Father of slain Chicago girl supports using her death to spur gun control talks
  • Last week she performed in events surrounding President Obama's inauguration
  • "She was so excited," Hadiya Pendleton's father says about her participation in inaugural
  • "Just a matter of days after the happiest day of her life, she's gone," Sen. Dick Durbin says

Chicago (CNN) -- The family of a Chicago teenager killed just a week after she performed in President Barack Obama's inauguration supports using her death to help shape the debate over gun control, her father and godfather said Thursday.

"Yes, definitely," Hadiya Pendleton's father, Nathaniel Pendleton, said on CNN's "Early Start."

Pendleton, 15, an honor student and band majorette at Kings College Prep School, died Tuesday after a gunman shot her at a park in what her godfather, Damon Stuart, described as an "ideal community" on Chicago's South Side.

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Police have told CNN affiliates that the teenager had no gang affiliation and likely was not the intended target.

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The issue quickly entered the national discussion over gun control, with White House spokesman Jay Carney referring to it in his daily press briefing and the issue coming up Wednesday in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin cited the girl's death as more evidence of the need for stronger gun control.

"Yesterday, in a rainstorm after school, she raced to a shelter. A gunman came in and shot her dead," he said during the hearing. "Just a matter of days after the happiest day of her life, she's gone."

White House spokesman Jay Carney described her death as a "terrible tragedy."

Watch: Chicago's 500 homicides in 2012

Hadiya's father said she had been ecstatic to participate in the inaugural festivities.

"It was one of the great things, she was so excited," Nathaniel Pendleton said. "She had been talking about it way before the inauguration, way before the election."

The year has gotten off to a deadly start in Chicago -- Hadiya Pendleton was the 42nd murder victim of 2013. No arrests have been made in the case.

Chicago recorded 506 murders in 2012.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel described the teenager Wednesday as "what's best in our city, a child going to school who takes a final exam, who had just been to the inaugural."

"We have a responsibility to see a stop to this," he said. "And all of us are responsible."

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Carney said the president and first lady's thoughts and prayers are with Hadiya Pendleton's family.

"And as the president said, we will never be able to eradicate every act of evil in this country," Carney said, "but if we can save even one child's life, we have an obligation to try when it comes to the scourge of gun violence."

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CNN's Ted Rowlands contributed to this report from Chicago, CNN's Tom Cohen contributed from Washington and Catherine E. Shoichet and Michael Pearson contributed from Atlanta.

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