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1/9: St. John’s College Joins the Call for Stronger Gun Safety Legislation

Originally Posted on admin, January 9, 2013

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Gabe Gomez 
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St. John’s College Joins the Call for Stronger Gun Safety Legislation

(SANTA FE, NM) Mike Peters, president of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, has joined over 170 college and university presidents from across the country in signing an open letter regarding gun safety legislation. The initiative was started by Presidents Lawrence M. Schall of Oglethorpe University and Elizabeth Kiss of Agnes Scott College, both in Atlanta, Georgia. The initiative calls for opposing legislation allowing guns on college and university campuses, ending the gun-show loopholes, reinstating the ban on military-style semi-automatic assault weapons along with high-capacity ammunition magazines, and requiring consumer safety standards for all guns.

“Gun violence is a national epidemic and of concern to all citizens.  As a college president, I felt it was my duty to speak out and encourage a national dialogue on this crucial issue,” says Mike Peters, president of St. John’s College.

St. John’s support of this initiative is of considerable relevance. President Peters is well acquainted with the power, responsibility, and consequences that come with high-powered weapons. Mr. Peters served for over 27 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a colonel. During this time, among other positions, he served as a platoon leader in Vietnam; an assistant professor of economics at West Point; a Soviet military specialist, including duty as an attaché in Moscow; an executive assistant in the office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a battalion commander in the Army Special Operations Command with deployments to Panama and Saudi Arabia. He concluded his military career as the Chief of Staff at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Prior to assuming the presidency of St. John’s in January 2005, Mr. Peters was the Executive Vice President of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.

St. John’s College, a co-ed four-year liberal arts college with campuses in Annapolis, Md. and Santa Fe, N.M., offers small discussion-based classes and a distinctive curriculum based on the foundational texts of the Western tradition. All students undertake a unified and multidisciplinary program, reading and discussing classic works of philosophy, literature, theology, history, political science, economics, mathematics, astronomy, physics, biology, and music. In this vibrant learning community, faculty members, known as tutors, do not lecture and are not segregated into departments, but instead learn with and guide their students as they read and discuss these foundational texts in small, seminar-style classes. The college also offers graduate-level programs based on these same principles. St. John’s has no religious affiliation and is the third oldest college in the country.

The Letter

December 19, 2012

On the same day our nation learned in horror that 20 first graders and six educators were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School, young people around the country were learning if they had been accepted to their favored colleges and universities. 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. That issue is gun safety.

Among the world's 23 wealthiest countries, 80% of all gun deaths occur in the United States and 87% of all children killed with guns are killed here (Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery).  In 2010, 2,694 young people were killed by gunfire. 1,773 were victims of homicide; 67 were elementary school-age children. If those children and teens were alive today, they would fill 108 classrooms of 25 each. 

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. 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.

As educators and parents, we come together to ask our elected representatives to act collectively on behalf of our children by enacting rational gun safety measures, including:

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.