URBANA — A statement on gun violence from a group of top university presidents won support Monday from University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise.
The statement issued last week by the Association of American Universities — representing 60 U.S. and two Canadian research schools, including the UI — said it's time to "confront our culture of violence." The AAU cited the most recent mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., as well as similar massacres at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Columbine, Colo., in 1999.
"Our schools and campuses have unfortunately become centers of national mourning, from Columbine to Virginia Tech, and now Newtown," the statement said.
Here is a copy of the statement.
The AAU prescribed no specific remedies but urged President Obama and Congress to take "meaningful action" on gun control, care for the mentally ill and "the culture of our contemporary media." It said faculty experts in those areas should be involved in the search for a response.
"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," the AAU said.
The statement was signed by the AAU's 11-member executive board, led by Tulane University President Scott Cowen.
Wise, in an interview Monday with The News-Gazette, said the board didn't request signatures from the full AAU membership, as it wanted to get the statement out quickly. But she said she likely would have signed, if asked.
"I thought it was very measured and very balanced," Wise said, noting its emphasis on gun control, care for the mentally ill and violence in media.
The AAU said 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 AAU statement said.
Illinois is the only state to ban concealed weapons, but a federal appeals court struck down the law in December, saying the Supreme Court had ruled the Second Amendment "confers a right to bear arms for self-defense, which is as important outside the home as inside."
The court gave legislators six months to come up with a new law legalizing "concealed carry," as it's known.
In 2011, a majority of legislators approved House Bill 148, which would have legalized concealed weapons, but the bill didn't get enough votes to supersede home rule. It included some exceptions, banning concealed weapons in schools, community colleges and universities, courthouses, stadiums, bars, amusement parks, casinos, airports and most government buildings.
Following the Newtown shooting, restrictions on assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition clips won committee approval in last week's lame-duck legislative session but stalled before a floor vote. The new General Assembly will be sworn in Wednesday.
The AAU also said a "thorough examination" of the mental health system is needed.
"It is also clear that our media, from television to video games and the Internet, are saturated with depictions of violence, much of it aimed at our 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 statement cited a need to balance liberty and safety, adding, "our universities hold freedom of inquiry and learning as a core value."
The UI's Wise said she hasn't yet ordered any review of campus security procedures as a result of the recent shooting.
"This is a national problem," she said.
Note: This story has been edited to correct the name and membership of the AAU.