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President Barack Obama offered a personal reflection on gun violence here Friday, tackling the issue not as a policymaker or parent, but as a black man himself who knew how close he’d come to a very different fate.

Obama’s talked frequently about gun violence since the Newtown massacre, but never in these terms. Straying from a speech meant to discuss initiatives from his State of the Union address aimed at supporting poor communities, the president reflected instead on the group of at-risk male teens he’d met with just before he took the stage.

“I had more of a safety net, but these guys are no different than me,” Obama said at Hyde Park Academy, where the teenagers are in school. “I had issues too when I was their age. I just had an environment that was a little more forgiving.”

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