Mount Holyoke will join churches and other organizations nationwide in observing a moment of silence for the victims killed in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday at 9:30 am—exactly one week to the hour after the mass shootings took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The College will ring the clock tower bells 26 times, once each for the 20 children and six adults slain at the school.
In another move of support for the victims of gun violence, MHC President Lynn Pasquerella has joined other college presidents from across the country in two separate efforts to lobby President Barack Obama and members of Congress to enact “rational gun safety measures.”
Pasquerella has signed a letter written by Presidents Lawrence M. Schall of Oglethorpe University and Elizabeth Kiss of Agnes Scott College, as well as one written by Emerson College President M. Lee Pelton. Each letter has garnered more than 200 signatures from leaders of private and public colleges and universities.
In a petition addressed to Obama, Pelton urged the president to use “whatever power your office holds,” to prevent “more tragedies like this.” He also offered help from the academic community.
“Our nation looks to colleges and universities to solve its most pressing problems, and these are issues on which we stand ready to provide a way forward,” Pelton wrote. “We, therefore, pledge to do what we do best in our academic communities: engage thought leaders, faculty, students, staff, trustees, and friends in meaningful debate and dialogue, which, in turn, might lead to positive action.”
The December 19 letter from Schall and Kiss made specific recommendations to lawmakers to “act collectively on behalf of our children” by: opposing legislation allowing guns on campuses and in classrooms; ending the gun show loophole that allows for the purchase of guns from unlicensed sellers without a criminal background check; reinstating the ban on military-style semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines; and requiring consumer safety standards for all guns.
Both groups also addressed the country’s need for better mental health care.
“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,” Schall and Kiss wrote.
Pasquerella has a personal tie to the Newtown shootings. Her sons Spencer and Pierce were once students of music teacher Mary Rose Kristopick, who managed to barricade a door to keep her 20 young students safe.
“We were so very proud to have known her and worked with her,” Pasquerella told ABC 40 after Friday’s bell ringing. “We want to make sure she knows how very proud we are of her.”