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Petition for national gun safety effort gains NIU's support

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University President John Peters is keeping an eye on Vice President Joe Biden’s gun violence task force.

“President Peters is supportive of a holistic public policy approach to reducing gun violence that includes components such as enhanced licensing and registration regulations, appropriate data sharing and mental health policies and issues,” the university said in a prepared statement.

Peters has been providing suggestions for Biden’s task force, the statement said.

It’s a topic that has been gripping college leaders in recent weeks.

Presidents Lawrence Schall of Oglethorpe University and Elizabeth Kiss of Agnes Scott College, both in Atlanta, Ga., released an open letter Dec. 19 urging gun safety legislation. It has received the support of more than 300 college and university presidents and is receiving more signatures on a daily basis.

The petition calls for lawmakers to oppose legislation allowing firearms on campuses or in schools; end the gun show loophole that allows people to buy guns from unlicensed sellers; reinstate bans on military-style weapons; and require safety standards on all guns.

“We fully understand that reasonable gun safety legislation will not prevent every future murder,” the letter states. “But, in many of our states, legislation has been introduced or passed that would allow gun possession on college campuses. We oppose such laws.”

The letter also cites a report in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery that states among the world’s 23 wealthiest countries, 80 percent of all gun deaths occur in the United States and 87 percent of all children killed with guns are killed here.

Northern Illinois University’s written statement did not address whether Peters would sign the petition.

The petition has gained the support of Kishwaukee College President Tom Choice, although he said he would not sign off on any national platform without board consent.

“It’s hard to disagree with the thinking and philosophy behind it,” Choice said. “It’s hard to not say that were opposed to guns in the classrooms and on college campuses.”

Kishwaukee College has the luxury of a contract with the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department, which allows armed security on campus, Choice said. But Choice said there is a line that should not be crossed in an environment that should be welcoming and conducive to learning.

“The problem is that if someone is determined to come on any campus and start shooting, I don’t know how you prevent that,” Choice said. “We certainly want to take any step we can, but we don’t want to turn it into a police state.”

With more college presidents signing the petition every day, Oglethorpe University spokeswoman Renee Vary said the future of the document is still undecided. She said Schall is working with other organizations supporting similar efforts and could formally present the petition to lawmakers or let it stand as a social statement.

“It’s to show unity, show a point of view and take a stand on something he believed in,” Vary said. “We’re continuing to get signatures to the letter so as they come in we’ll add them.”

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