Emerson College President Lee Pelton joined Mayor Thomas Menino, lawmakers, and families of gun violence victims at a rally in Boston August 28 to call on Congress to pass tougher national gun laws, focusing on stricter background checks for gun buyers.

The rally was organized by Mayors Against Illegal Guns and is part of “No More Names: National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence.” Those in attendance included Massachusetts senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, and U.S. representatives Michael Capuano and John Tierney.

“Illegal guns are taking a terrible and unacceptable toll on our youth, particularly those who live in lower income or urban neighborhoods,” said Pelton. “The top cause of death for African American teens between 15 and 19 years old is gun homicide. And while African American teens represent just 15 percent of their peers, they account for 45 percent of all gun deaths in their age group. As a country, we have a moral obligation to find ways to eliminate youth access to these weapons.”

In the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Pelton, along with 289 other college presidents, made a pledge to President Obama to lead discussions about America’s culture of gun violence. To help fulfill that promise, Pelton established the College Presidents’ Gun Violence Resource Center, a website available to college presidents that shares information and helps institutions design and plan campus initiatives around gun violence. In addition to the resource center, Emerson hosted a series of panel discussions titled Made in America: Our Gun Violence Culture during the Spring 2013 semester.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns is an ongoing, national effort continuing to raise awareness of the issue of gun violence in America—and, most importantly, to urge elected officials to prioritize the safety of the people they represent. The coalition was cofounded in 2006 by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, and has grown from a committed group of 15 members to more than 1,000 mayors.

By: Nicole Sullivan


On Thursday, April 25, Emerson College will host the last public panel discussion in its four-part Made in America: Our Gun Violence Culture series with media partner WGBH. The fourth panel, titled “The Cultural, Social, and Economic Underpinnings of American Violence,”will explore economic inequalities that lead to violence; how communities affect the socialization of young people; the impact of laws and sentencing for juvenile defenders; and programs and policies that bring about change and provide opportunities. The panel will take place from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theater, located in the Paramount Center, 559 Washington Street, Boston. The event is free and open to the public and is first come, first served. For more information, visit www.emerson.edu

Gun-Panel-Poster-4-ToPrint


As horrific as the Sandy Hook mass killings were, they do not come close to telling the whole story about gun violence in our country, especially as it is affecting our children and young people.

While the nation feverously debates banning semi-automatic rifles and establishing universal federal background checks for gun purchases, our children are dying at an alarming rate, not by assault weapons, but by less exotic fire arms, most of them easily accessible in our homes.

American gun violence is a public health problem of epidemic proportions that is killing our children, destroying families, and inflicting awful and permanent damage on its survivors. Many more young people are injured annually by firearms than those who are diagnosed with cancer each year (20,000 v. 13,000, respectively) and the death rates for both are comparable (2,600 v. 3,200 respectively).

Put another way, firearms kill about 8 young people each day. That’s a death every three hours, about the time it takes to buy popcorn and watch a movie in a theatre.

According to a Princeton University report, firearms are the second leading cause of death among young people ages to 10 to 19. Only motor vehicle accidents claim more young lives. The majority of youth gun deaths are not mass killings but rather homicides. Many others are accidental, many in our homes.

Equally alarming is that a third are suicides.

Youth suicides often occur during a very brief period of acute impulsivity, deaths that studies demonstrate mostly likely would have been prevented if the victims had not had easy access to firearms.

I have had first hand experience of this suicide impulsivity as a college administrator. In one instance, a highly successful, three-sport college athlete, having just had lunch with one of her parents, returned to her family’s home where she took her own life with a rifle that was kept unlocked underneath a bed. In another instance, a senior, who just that day had been admitted to his first choice law school, drove to a gun shop where he asked the clerk to show him a shotgun. When the clerk walked away, the student loaded it and killed himself on the spot.

In both instances, I was struck by how determined they seemed and how each death occurred during a very brief period of psychological crisis, as if they were compelled by an uncontrollable urge or sudden change in their bio-chemistry.

The Harvard Public School of Health (HPSH) cites an Australian study, which reports that 40% of those who attempted (and survived a suicide attempt) took action within five minutes of deciding to attempt.

HPSH also reports studies which show that access to firearms are a risk factor for suicides and that young people who die by suicide are twice as likely to have a gun at home than those who survive a suicide attempt.

In response to a very high suicide rate among the adolescent members of the Israeli Defense Forces, a suicide prevention program was put into place that prohibited adolescent soldiers from taking their firearms with them during their weekend leaves. Following the policy change, suicide rates decreased by 40%.

Both research and our own common sense tells us that suicide attempts with firearms are almost always fatal and the risk of suicide fatalities increases when guns are accessible and decreased when they are not.

The gun deaths of America’s young people are a public health crisis of enormous dimension and consequence. So, too, are its costs, estimated by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado to be almost $158 billion annually.

Youth gun violence deserves more research, more resources and increased commitment, without which it will continue unabated.

Just as we have national childhood cancer awareness campaigns, so, too, should we have awareness campaigns to shine a bright light on how American gun violence cuts short the lives of young people. We need safety programs for our children as well as programs to educate parents and adults about the dangers of keeping unlocked guns in our homes.

Several years ago, I recall a public awareness campaign that encouraged parents to ask the parents of their children’s friends if they had a gun in the house and if they did, was it securely locked. This is a practice worth reviving.

And as difficult as it might be to talk to each other about a topic that remains a social taboo, we also need a national conversation about the reality of youth suicide and the role that access to guns plays in this national tragedy.

It’s time for the adults to cast aside our ideological differences and take a stand to save our children because their lives are in jeopardy. They really are.

This article was originally published on the Huffington Post


A panel of academics and advocates on April 2 continued Emerson’s discussion series, Made in America: Our Gun Violence Culture at the Bordy Theater.

The third discussion of the four-part series, “The Second Amendment: What is it? What is it not?,” examined the right-to-bear-arms constitutional amendment debate that has been raging since the school shooting tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, last December.

Canova

Ted Canova ’82, news editor of WGBH-FM, holds a copy of the Second Amendment during a panel discussion on gun violence at Bordy Theater April 2. (Photo by Aja Neahring ’13)

“[Internet hits for] the Second Amendment, just like the First Amendment, are going through the roof on Google. There’s a quarter of a billion hits,” said panel moderator Ted Canova ’82, executive editor of news for WGBH-FM. “It’s really something, because it contains 27 words. And those 27 words have just been a firestorm right now in the country.”

By comparison, the Seventh Amendment, which concerns the right to a jury trial, has about 7 million page views on Google.

“One of the things we need to know is the Second Amendment was written at a time when we were suspect of England,” Canova said. “The militia preceded the military. There was skepticism about religious freedom.”

Canova focused the panel’s discussion on issues stemming from the Supreme Court cases District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010), which protect an individual’s right to possess firearms for self-defense.

Panelist Brent Carlson, director of Comm2A, a Boston-based organization dedicated to preserving gun rights, said even though the court decisions are “the law of the land” they are “not fully implemented.”

“There are many instances where that right is denied without due process, or the subjective judgment of a government official,” said Carlson, alluding to Massachusetts laws that give power to police chiefs when deciding gun permit issues.

MacNutt

Karen MacNutt, an attorney for gun rights organizations, at the Emerson panel discussion on April 2. (Photo by Aja Neahring ’13)

Panelist Karen MacNutt, an attorney for gun rights advocacy causes, and contributing editor of Women & Guns magazine, said “it’s very clear” there is a force of people in this country who “would gladly ban every gun there is.”

She said many anti-gun people have never had experience with firearms, so there is a “disconnect.”

Panelist Kent Greenfield, who is a professor at Boston College Law School, said the National Rifle Association is winning the battle in Congress.

“Americans love rhetoric about liberty and freedom,” Greenfield said. “I do think that the [loudest] voices on the pro-gun side don’t stand for any… balance against their right to bear arms.”

Tushnet

Mark Tushnet, professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, at the Emerson panel discussion on April 2. (Photo by Aja Neahring ’13)

Greenfield and fellow panelist Mark Tushnet, professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, both signed a letter to Congress saying the government does have a right to implement more restrictions on guns, which would still be in accordance with the rulings of Heller and McDonald.

“The court says explicitly that you don’t need to rule out the possibility of a series of conditional regulations of guns,” Tushnet said. “What we say is within the parameters of the Supreme Court’s decision, there is a range of possibilities for regulation of guns that remains open for legislative control.”

For more information on Emerson President Lee Pelton’s initative to encourage dialogue on gun violence, visit the College Presidents’ Gun Violence Resource Center website.


On Tuesday, April 2, Emerson College will host the third panel discussion in its four-part series with media partner WGBH. Titled “The Second Amendment: What is it? What is it not?” the panel will explore the Second Amendment and different interpretations of it. The panel will take place at the Bill Bordy Theater, 216 Tremont Street, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. The event is free and open to the public and is first come, first served. For more information, visit www.emerson.edu.

Third-Gun-Panel-Poster-M2[3]

Moderated by executive editor for WGBH News Ted Canova, an Emerson alumnus, the panel will include director and president of Comm2A (a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and expanding the rights of firearms owners in the commonwealth) Brent Carlton; consulting attorney for gun-rights advocacy organizations Karen MacNutt; professor and Law Fund Research Scholar at Boston College Law School Kent Greenfield; and professor at Harvard Law School Mark Tushnet.

One additional panel will be held on campus next month. On April 25, panelists will discuss “The Cultural, Social, and Economic Underpinnings of American Violence.” Emerson will also present Frank Higgins’ Gunplay, a performance directed by Performing Arts faculty member Benny Ambush, which will include a cast of professional actors and Emerson Performing Arts students.



Three months after the shooting in Newtown, CT, a new national survey by the Emerson College Polling Society (ECPS) finds that 49% of Americans support stricter gun laws, a 5% drop from a January ECPS poll. There was a 3.3% margin of error for the survey.

ECPS President Felix Chen observes that 46% of Americans consider gun control policy extremely important. The results suggest that, “Even three months after the Sandy Hookshooting, Americans still view gun control policy as a national priority, along with Healthcare (64%), jobs (58%), and the deficit (50%).”

Despite the U.S. Senate’s recent decision to drop a proposed assault weapons ban, 58% of those surveyed supported such a ban. The most popular gun policy measures continues to be a requirement for universal background checks (80%) with a majority (57%) of support for a ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

ECPS analyst Siobhan Robinson notes that, “despite significant support for various gun control measures, a majority (51%) of those surveyed do not believe these laws will actually help reduce gun violence, which may be why Congress has been slow to act.”

Sixty-percent (60%) of those surveyed support raising the minimum age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21, and seventy-percent (70%) of Americans support Senator Patrick Leahy’s (VT) proposal that would make it a crime to purchase a gun for someone else.

Men and women are divided on the effectiveness of gun control policy. Forty-nine percent (49%) of women surveyed believe that new measures will help reduce gun violence, compared to 39% of men.

Other Key Findings:

  • Fifty-four percent (54%) of Americans have favorable rating of President Obama, an increase of five percent compared to the previous survey
  • Forty-four percent (44%) of the participants view the National Rifle Association favorably, a drop of 5% from January
  • Sixty-three percent (63%) of women support a ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, compared to 51% of men.
  • Eighty-five percent (85%) of women support a requirement for universal background checks on gun buyers, opposed to 75% of men.
  • Both Republicans and Democrats support background checks on gun buyers. Ninety-three percent (93%) of Democrats support the proposal along with 69% of Republicans.
  • Fifty-eight percent (58%) of registered Republicans support placing armed guards in schools, compared to only 33% of Democrats.

Caller ID: Data was collected between March 11th-13th, 2013, using an automated data collection system. The national survey consisted of 885 registered voters with a margin of error of +/-3.3% with a 95% confidence level. The full survey and results are available at the group’s website:http://www.emersoncollegepollingsociety.com/.


With emerging evidence that the mass killers in the Newtown, Connecticut, and Aurora, Colorado, shootings were hooked on violent video games and movies before committing their atrocities on innocent people, experts on an Emerson panel discussion March 18 disagreed on whether censorship is the answer.

But the two most vocal panelists agreed that violence in the media has to be curtailed—in some way—for the nation to make a dent in reducing gun deaths. The comments came during the panel discussion “Gun Violence in Media and Electronic Games” at the Semel Theater.

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, professor emerita at Lesley University, is most concerned about marketing violent entertainment and products to children. (Photo by Aja Neahring '13)

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, professor emerita at Lesley University, is most concerned about marketing violent entertainment and products to children. (Photo by Aja Neahring ’13)

“I’m not in favor of censorship,” said Nancy Carlsson-Paige, professor emerita at Lesley University and founder of the University’s Center for Peaceable Schools. “But there’s a difference between censorship and what’s happening right now, which is deliberate marketing toward children.”

Dan Isett, director of public policy for the Parents Television Council, did not outright call for censorship during the discussion but hinted that the Federal Communications Commission should impose heavier regulations on violence that can be broadcast.

“The Communications Act of 1934, which created the FCC, mentions the term ‘the public interest’ 134 times,” Isett said. “Here we are, 80 some odd years later, and isn’t it about time we had a real discussion about whether…what’s going on here is in the public interest?”

Dan Isett of the Parents Television Council said more than 900 violent images were shown on broadcast television primetime from January 11 to February 11, 2013. (Photo by Aja Neahring '13)

Dan Isett of the Parents Television Council said more than 900 violent images were shown on broadcast television primetime from January 11 to February 11, 2013. (Photo by Aja Neahring ’13)

Isett said his organization counted 934 violent images broadcast in primetime on the broadcast networks alone between January 11 and February 11.

“Censorship is not the answer,” said David Horowitz, executive director of the Media Coalition, which is dedicated to defending First Amendment rights. “It’s really up to each individual parent to make a decision for their own child.”

David Horowitz of the Media Coalition with discussion moderator Callie Crossley of WGBH TV and radio. (Photo by Aja Neahring '13)

David Horowitz of the Media Coalition with discussion moderator Callie Crossley of WGBH TV and radio. (Photo by Aja Neahring ’13)

The panelists, which also included Dr. T. Atilla Ceranoglu, a child and adolescent psychiatrist whose work includes researching the clinical effects of video games on children, took part in the second of a four-part discussion series titled Made in America: Our Gun Violence Culture, which began as part of Emerson President Lee Pelton’s initiative to increase dialogue on gun violence in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting last December.

Dr. T. Atilla Ceranoglu, a Bostob-based child and adolescent psychiatrist whose work includes researching the clinical effects of video games on children. (Photo by Aja Neahring '13)

Dr. T. Atilla Ceranoglu, a Bostob-based child and adolescent psychiatrist whose work includes researching the clinical effects of video games on children. (Photo by Aja Neahring ’13)

The March 18 discussion was hosted by Callie Crossley, radio and TV news host for WGBH.

There are 300 million guns in the United States, which means one for every American and 45 percent of households, according to Crossley, who mentioned the statistics at the beginning of the discussion.

“In other countries, similar violent media is consumed,” Horowitz said. “In Japan…they have media which is actually far more violent and their gun crime is just a fraction of what it is in the United States. What’s different in the United States is guns.”

The panelists disagreed on whether there were conclusive studies linking violent video games to gun violence.

The discussion panel at the Semel Theater. From left, Ceranoglu, Horowitz, Crossley, Carlsson-Paige and Isett. (Photo by Aja Neahring '13)

The discussion panel at the Semel Theater. From left, Ceranoglu, Horowitz, Crossley, Carlsson-Paige and Isett. (Photo by Aja Neahring ’13)

But Carlsson-Paige, who has written several books and spoken extensively on the impact of media in children’s social development, said it is the marketing of toys and products associated with violent movies and video games that is most detrimental.

“Marketing violence to young children is absolutely unethical and should be regulated,” Carlsson-Paige said. “I’m not only concerned about the kid growing up and being a shooter. I’m concerned about kids who come to pre-school and start drawing blood on paper. There are a lot of social and emotional effects that are subtle, but they’re important.”

Carlsson-Paige and Isett both disagreed with Horowitz’s earlier argument that parents should better monitor what TV shows and video games children consume.

“I basically have a computer in my pocket,” Isett said. “Fifteen years ago, nobody had a computer in their pocket.”

“Parents monitoring their kids is a dream from the past,” Carlsson-Paige said. “Most families have two working parents. They’re not sitting there looking at TV with their kids.”

Carlsson-Paige and Isett also blasted the entertainment industry for not adhering to its own standards when placing ratings on video games and movies. “The Harvard School of Public Health did a study that shows that movie(s) that were rated ‘R’ 15 years ago, 10 years later were rated ‘PG-13.’ There’s more and more violence in the media that is acceptable,” she said. “We aren’t creating a social environment that is nurturing, caring, loving. We’re not creating that kind of society.”



Emerson College will host the second panel discussion in its four-part series with media partner WGBH. Titled “Who’s to Blame? Gun Violence in Media and Electronic Games,” the panel will explore what impact, if any, media and video games have on gun violence in the United States. The panel will take place at the Semel Theater, 10 Boylston Place (a pedestrian walkway located off Boylston Street, halfway between Charles Street and Tremont Street) from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. The event is free and open to the public and is first come, first served. For more information, visit emerson.edu

Who’s to Blame? Gun Violence in Media and Electronic Games

Moderated by WGBH radio and television host Callie Crossley, the panel will include Lesley University Professor Emerita and author of Taking Back Childhood Nancy Carlsson-Paige; child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and faculty member at Harvard University T. Atilla Ceranoglu, MD; Director of the Parents Television Council (a nonprofit advocating for res ponsible entertainment) Dan Isett; and Executive Director of the Media Coalition (an association that defends the American public’s First Amendment right to have access to the broadest possible range of opinion and entertainment)David Horowitz.

Please save the dates for the next two gun violence panels:

  • April 2:  “The Second Amendment: What is it? What is it not?”
  • April 25:  “The Cultural, Social, and Economic Underpinnings of American Violence.”