Cornell President David Skorton joined nine presidents of major American universities in issuing a statement Jan. 2 that urges U.S. President Barack Obama and Congress to address gun violence. The signers are members of the executive committee of the Association of American Universities (AAU), comprising 60 leading U.S. and two Canadian research universities. President Emeritus Hunter R. Rawlings III, president of the AAU, also signed the document.
"The time has come for the United States to confront its culture of violence, particularly violence perpetrated by guns. The Newtown slaughter is the latest in a series of mass murders, but the nature and number of its victims have caused Americans to devote special attention to this tragic event and its causes. Our schools and campuses have unfortunately become centers of national mourning, from Columbine to Virginia Tech, and now Newtown," they wrote. "As leaders of public and private universities, we strongly urge the president and the Congress to seek effective means of mitigating this scourge of American life. We believe that strong, meaningful action needs to occur in three domains: gun control, care of the mentally ill, and the culture of our contemporary media."
The statement noted: "We know that there are no simple 'solutions' to violence in America, but we do believe that all three areas require focused and serious consideration by the president and the Congress. Many high-powered weapons that have no legitimate use for hunting, marksmanship or self-defense continue to be bought and sold, as are the high-volume magazines often used by mass murderers. Increasingly, universities find themselves prevented by state laws from keeping guns off campus and out of the hands of students."
The statement recommends "a thorough examination of the care and treatment of the mentally ill" and decries TV, video game and Internet violence aimed at youth. "Here too the issue is complex because of the nation's fundamental commitment to freedom of speech, but moral suasion seems clearly required if we are to stem this tide of the media's addiction to violence," the presidents wrote.
A PDF of the statement is available for download at http://aau.edu.