MARIETTA - The president of Marietta College is among 300 college presidents signing a letter asking national leaders to prevent guns on campuses and classrooms and to enact other measures.
The College Presidents for Gun Safety wrote the open letter in December in the aftermath of the 20 students and six teachers shot and killed Dec. 14 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The attacker fatally shot his mother before the massacre and killed himself before police could apprehend him.
Signing on was Joseph Bruno, who became president of Marietta College in July.
"I was proud to join my fellow presidents from institutions across the nation in signing these letters to our elected officials," Bruno said. "As a nation, we were stunned by the loss of innocent lives in Newtown, Conn., including those of brave teachers and young children, and we regret the mental health implications raised by this tragic event.
"In these letters, we called, not for a ban on weapon ownership, but for more thoughtful approaches to the sale of assault weapons, the presence of guns on campuses and the provision of mental health care to individuals in dire need," Bruno said.
The presidents are asking elected representatives to enact measures that would:
* Ensure the safety of communities by opposing legislation allowing guns on campuses and in classrooms.
* End the gun show loophole allowing the purchase of guns from unlicensed sellers without a criminal background check.
* Reinstate the ban on military-style, semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
* Require consumer safety standards for all guns, such as safety locks, access prevention laws and regulations to identify, prevent and correct manufacturing defects.
"For many years now, our nation's leaders have engaged in fevered debates on higher education, yet lawmakers shy away from taking action on one issue that prevents thousands of young people from living lives of promise, let alone realizing their college dreams," the letter said. "That issue is gun safety."
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 in this country, according to the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, the letter said. In 2010, 2,694 young people were killed by gunfire, of which 1,773 were victims of homicide and 67 were elementary school-age children, the Dec. 19 letter said.
"We are college and university presidents. We are parents. We are Republicans, Democrats and independents. We urge both our president and Congress to take action on gun control now," the letter said. "As a group, we do not oppose gun ownership. But, in many of our states, legislation has been introduced or passed that would allow gun possession on college campuses. We oppose such laws. We fully understand that reasonable gun safety legislation will not prevent every future murder. 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."
Three college presidents from West Virginia signed the letter, Scott D. Miller of Bethany College, Michael Mihalyo of Davis & Elkins College and Ed Welch of the University of Charleston.
Thirteen presidents from schools in Ohio, including Marietta College, signed: Dennison W. Griffith, Columbus College of Art & Design; Dale T. Knobel, Denison University; S. Georgia Nugent, Kenyon College; Charles Scriven, Kettering College; Michael T. Victor, Lake Erie College; Andrew P. Roth, Notre Dame College; Rock Jones, Ohio Wesleyan University; Kathy A. Krendl, Otterbein University; Grant H. Cornwell, The College of Wooster; Roger H. Sublett, Union Institute & University; Richard Giese, University of Mount Union; Diana Stano, Ursuline College.
"The time has long since passed for silence and inaction on the issue of reasonable and rational gun safety legislation," the letter said.