In the wake of the Newtown shooting last month, more than 320 university presidents in the United States have signed a petition against legislation for legal possession of firearms on university campuses.
Although Elon University President Leo Lambert has not signed the petition, Elon strictly prohibits the possession or use of weapons on university property. Consequences for violation may include suspension, expulsion and arrest.
On Dec.19, five days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Oglethorpe University President Lawrence Schall and Agnes Scott College President Elizabeth Kiss released a letter of opposition to legislation in Georgia calling for legal possession of firearms on university campuses. The petition received widespread support within days after it was published.
Schall said he drafted the petition, titled College Presidents for Gun Safety, at 2 a.m. Dec. 16.
“I had watched the service that night where President Obama spoke and afterwards I just could not fall asleep,” Schall said. “I was haunted by his challenge to the country that we could do better. This is America, we could do better.”
In the United States, five states allow concealed weapons on campuses, 21 states ban weapons on campuses and 23 states allow universities to decide on an individual basis.
Schall said he drafted the initiative to represent concerned campus leaders, regardless of their political preferences.
In addition to gun regulations, the petition recognizes the need for identification and treatment of “the mental health issues that lie beneath so many of the mass murders.”
Other organizations, such as the Association of American Universities, have drafted similar letters.
Schall estimates more than 400 university presidents have made a call for rational gun safety laws.
Of 100 Elon students surveyed informally, 93 said they are against guns on campus and will likely support Lambert if he chooses to sign a petition advocating gun safety.
But regardless of Lambert's decision, campus police constantly remain alert for reports about guns on campus, which the department rarely receives, according to Jana Lynn Patterson, assistant vice president of Student Life.