Sullivan to not endorse gun control petition

350 college presidents, representing 13 percent of public, private institutions, sign firearms safety statement, loophole enters discussion

A group of 350 college presidents signed a letter to U.S. legislators Monday advocating for gun control reform. The petition follows a week of contention within the Virginia legislature, in which a Senate committee eventually rejected a recent gun control measure designed to close the so-called gun show loophole.

University President Teresa Sullivan did not sign the document.

The group – College Presidents for Gun Safety – formed after the shootings of 26 students and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December. The organization is made up of college presidents from across the United States of all political affiliations, according to its website. Signers of the letter represent about 13 percent of public and private institution presidents.

The organization appeared with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Monday in Washington to advocate for gun control reform. In the letter, the college presidents pledged to oppose legislation allowing guns on school campuses and asked legislators to ban military style, semi-automatic assault weapons and end the gun show loophole — a section of current law that requires only licensed dealers, not private sellers, to obtain background checks on buyers at gun shows.

“The time has long since passed for silence and inaction on the issue of reasonable and rational gun safety legislation,” the group said in the letter.

Further measures to increase gun control, such as those proposed by the college presidents, would be largely ineffective, said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a non-profit, pro-gun rights grassroots organization. “Gun control does not work to stop or prevent crime,” he said. “We have a right to bear arms and by impeding that right, we only make for a more dangerous world.”

But such measures appear unlikely to take root in Virginia anyway, said Center for Politics spokesperson Geoff Skelley. He noted that the gun-show loophole has long been a major point of discussion in the state.

“Attempts prior to [recent shootings] and since have always been unsuccessful,” he said.

The Virginia Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 11-3 Monday to reject a measure that would have mandated State Police be available to perform background checks for non-dealer sales at gun shows if a party involved in a transaction wants one.

“While public pressure can have some impact on the hopes of various legislative priorities, no matter what the subject matter is, I wouldn’t expect movement on any gun control bill in Virginia,” Skelley said.

—Kelly Kaler contributed with reporting.

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