BLOOMINGTON — More than 200 presidents of colleges and universities nationwide — including Illinois Wesleyan University and Eureka College — have joined an open letter urging “rational gun safety measures” in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
“Over the last two to three years, we’ve had a number of mass shootings like this,” IWU President Dick Wilson said Thursday. “This most recent one for most of us was the last straw.”
Eureka President David Arnold said, “This tragedy has impacted everyone. This was just a response by the educational community” to encourage action.
The effort was launched by Presidents Lawrence Schall of Oglethorpe University and Elizabeth Kiss of Agnes Scott College through an association of small to mid-size independent liberal arts colleges and universities. Both schools are in Atlanta, Ga.
The letter, posted online under the name “College Presidents for Gun Safety,” calls for:
- Opposing legislation allowing guns on our campuses and in our classrooms.
- Ending the practice of allowing guns to be purchased from unlicensed sellers at gun shows without a criminal background check.
- Reinstating bans on military-style semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
- Requiring consumer safety standards on guns that would include safety locks, access prevention and rules related to manufacturing defects.
The letter also states, “Identification and treatment of the mental health issues that lie beneath so many of the mass murders to which we increasingly bear witness must also be addressed.”
Wilson thinks the likelihood of change has increased because “the outrage across the country is at a fever pitch.”
The incident that left 20 children six adults and the gunman dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and the gunman’s mother dead at her home has changed the gun control landscape, Arnold said.
“I think it’s created a tipping point where it can’t be ignored,” he said.
Illinois State University President Al Bowman is not part of the group that spearheaded the campaign and did not receive the letter.
ISU presidential spokesman Jay Groves said, “This is obviously a horrible situation and very complex to address.”
He said Bowman would agree that universities should be exempt from any laws to allow people to carry concealed weapons in public places.
Wilson said, “We are going to see what we can do to sustain the discussion and not have it be just a month of December debate.”