WASHINGTON, D.C. — A coalition of college presidents and campus law enforcement organizations joined with New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s gun-control group Monday to call for "rational gun safety legislation."
Meeting at a hotel blocks from the Capitol Building, the organizations pressed Congress to pass legislation requiring universal background checks for gun purchases, bans on "assault weapons" and high-capacity magazines, and making gun trafficking a federal crime.
Among the groups present were Mayors Against Illegal Guns, College Presidents for Gun Safety, the Association of American Universities (AAU), and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA).
"College and university presidents certainly don’t agree on every major issue facing our nation, but when it comes to ensuring the safety of our students, our communities, and our country, there is broad consensus that we need to come together and speak out," Oglethorpe University president Lawrence Schall said. "Today, I am proud to join with my fellow educators to urge congressional action for rational gun legislation and expanded mental health services for young people."
College Presidents for Gun Safety wrote a letter in December demanding more stringent gun control. More than 350 college and university presidents have so far signed on to the letter.
Education secretary Arne Duncan also joined the groups on stage.
"The opportunity to go to college is a pillar of the American Dream, but guns and violence have cut short that dream for too many of our students," Duncan said. "President [Barack] Obama and I agree with education leaders from preschool through college: Outside of trained law enforcement officers, guns have no place in our schools or on our campuses."
The press conference was part of a broader national push by gun-control groups and Democrats to seize the political momentum following the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
"This is a movement whose time has come," Duncan declared.
Halfway across the country in Minneapolis, President Obama was also stumping to build public support for stricter gun laws.
"We don’t have to agree on everything to agree it’s time to do something," Obama said, flanked by uniformed law enforcement officers. "I need everybody who is listening to keep the pressure on your member of Congress to do the right thing."
Gun rights have been a hotly debated topic on college campuses since the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007.
Second Amendment groups and state Republican legislators have repeatedly tried to allow licensed students to carry concealed weapons on campuses, arguing students should have the right to protect themselves just as they would in any other public space.
Students for Concealed Carry on Campus is one of the most prominent groups supporting allowing licensed guns on campuses.
"The current rules guarantee criminals a free shot," SCCC spokesman David Burnett said in a statement last month. "Allowing licensed concealed carry would give potential attackers pause and ultimately give innocent victims a fighting chance."
University administrators and campus law enforcement groups have fiercely opposed those efforts.
"The AAU does not believe that more guns on campus are the answer to student safety at universities," Association of American Universities president Hunter Rawlings said at the Monday press conference. The AAU is an association of the nation’s top research institutions.
"Arming college students and faculty is a dangerous proposal that campus law enforcement officials strongly disavow," said IACLEA government relations chair Michael Webster.
Webster told the Free Beacon that adding concealed carry holders to a shooting situation on campus would "inevitably end up tragically."
Student groups were also present at the news conference. The United States Student Association (USSA) also called for gun-control legislation.
"We want common sense gun reform, but more importantly, we want a revolution of love," said Tiffany Loftin, president of USSA. "We don’t just want regulations that put people in jail. We want a paradigm shift that moves us from a country of violence to a country of compassion."