College presidents plead for gun control

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Seven Pittsburgh-area college presidents have joined roughly 300 campus leaders nationwide in signing an open letter imploring U.S. policy makers to enact additional gun control measures following this month's Connecticut elementary school massacre.

The group of signers, dubbed "College Presidents for Gun Safety," stated in their letter that they do not oppose gun ownership. They said reasonable gun safety legislation would not stop every shooting and that identifying and treating mental health problems intertwined in such killings is essential.

But they also said they oppose bills in various states either proposed or already enacted into law that permit gun possession on college campuses. They also recommended several moves "on behalf of our children" that included:

• Ending what the letter signers called the gun show loophole that enables gun purchases from unlicensed sellers without a criminal background check.

• Reinstituting a ban on military-style semiautomatic weapons with high-capacity ammunition magazines.

• Creating consumer safety standards including safety locks and checks against gun manufacturer defects.

"For many years now, our nation's leaders have engaged in fevered debates on higher education, yet lawmakers shy away from taking action on one issue that prevents thousands of young people from living lives of promise, let alone realizing their college dreams," the letter states. "That issue is gun safety."

The letter adds, "We are college and university presidents. We are parents. We are Republicans, Democrats and Independents. We urge both our President and Congress to take action on gun control now."

To date, the 28 college presidents in Pennsylvania include, from the Pittsburgh-area, Mary Hines of Carlow University; Esther L. Barazzone of Chatham University; Charles Dougherty of Duquesne University; Candace Introcaso of La Roche College; Paul Hennigan of Point Park University; Gregory Dell'Omo of Robert Morris University and Tori Haring-Smith of Washington & Jefferson College.

Other Western Pennsylvania signers include Keith Taylor of Gannon University and Tom Gamble of Mercyhurst University.

The letter was first circulated Dec. 19 by two Atlanta-area college presidents, Lawrence Schall of Oglethorpe University and Elizabeth Kiss of Agnes Scott College. Mr. Schall, who came up with the idea, said Friday he had trouble sleeping after watching a televised service following the killings of 20 first-graders and six staff inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

"I have four of my own children. They went to an elementary school that looked very much like that school. The whole thing seemed so tragic and unnecessary," he said.

Ms. Hines said that "no matter how much we do and teach at Carlow, we cannot resolve the issue of violence when weapons are so readily available and so easily accessed. When my colleague presidents requested my signature on a national statement for bipartisan action for reasonable gun control legislation, I readily and easily agreed."


Bill Schackner: or 412-263-1977.


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