Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, gun control has come to the forefront of discussion across the nation, including among colleges and universities.
President Tom Rochon has signed a letter circulating among institutions, supporting President Barack Obama’s push to tighten gun control. As of Wednesday, more than 160 college presidents had signed the letter addressed to Obama. The letter was initiated by Emerson College President Lee Pelton.
“Our nation looks to colleges and universities to solve its most pressing problems and these are issues on which we stand ready to provide a way forward,” the letter states. “We, therefore, pledge to do what we do best in our academic communities: engage thought leaders, faculty, students, staff, trustees and friends in meaningful debate and dialogue, which, in turn, might lead to positive action.”
In response to the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, when the shooter, Adam Lanza, killed 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn., Obama has charged Vice President Joe Biden with the task of leading the administration’s effort to create policies that will reduce gun violence by January. While Obama had previously remained silent on gun control issues during other shootings in the nation such as the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., on July, 20, he said during a press conference that the Newtown shooting had been “a wake-up call for all of us.”
Emerson College’s letter calls for more attention being paid to “developing measures that would have the effect of curtailing easy access to assault weapons, especially guns that can hold up to 100 rounds of ammunition without reloading.”
Rochon sent an email to the campus community Wednesday to inform the college of his decision to sign his name to the letter.
According to Rochon’s email, in addition to offering Obama support in his commitment to limit gun violence, the letter also calls for sustained attention to mental health assessment and other societal issues contributing to gun violence.
When asked why he chose to sign the letter, Rochon said it was important for the country to take steps to reduce gun violence.
“Now is the time for us to transcend partisan and philosophical differences and find steps that we can take that reduce the likelihood that innocent lives will be claimed through gun violence,” he said.
In addition to the letter from Emerson College, there is also a letter circulating by the leaders of Agnes Scott College and Oglethorpe University, which also has more than 160 signatures, calling for stricter gun control.
“The time has long since passed for silence and inaction on the issue of reasonable and rational gun safety legislation. We hereby request that our nation’s policy leaders take thoughtful and urgent action to ensure that current and future generations may live and learn in a country free from the threat of gun violence,” the letter states. Rochon has not signed the second letter.
Rochon said this is the second time he has agreed to comment on or support a political or public issue during his presidency at the college. He previously agreed to sign his name to an amicus brief to the Supreme Court for a pending case, but had not previously publicized this act.
Rochon said the letter is going to be sent to Obama at the end of the week and he intends to send an Intercom announcement including the whole text of the letter next week.