Gonzales Says More Guns Not The Answer To Campus Violence

Wednesday, May 2nd 2007, 3:28 pm

By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Wednesday that having more guns on college campuses is not the way to prevent campus violence like the shootings at Virginia Tech.

Gonzales, participating in a task force created by Gov. Brad Henry to study safety and security on Oklahoma college campuses, said state and federal governments need to work closely to make campuses safe while still respecting individual freedoms and privacy.

``In a society where we really value individual freedom and respect privacy we're also concerned about public safety,'' Gonzales said.

Since the April 16 shootings at Tech's Blacksburg, Va., campus, some have suggested that the carnage might have been lower if a student or professor with a gun had stepped in.

``I don't think that is the answer, quite frankly,'' Gonzales said. Instead, authorities should enforce existing laws concerning the ownership and use of handguns, he said.

``We can't guarantee complete security,'' Gonzales said. ``We need to see what we can do as a government _ on the federal level, on the state level _ to ensure the safety of our students.''

As a result of the tech shootings, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine closed a loophole that allowed the mentally disturbed gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, to obtain the guns he used to kill 32, then himself.

Discussions among Oklahoma law enforcement, mental health and higher education officials focused on getting and sharing information about possible campus risks and how to respond to a campus attack.

``Is there additional information that we need with respect to individuals who may pose a threat to society?'' Gonzales said. While authorities should know if a mentally ill student may be prone to violence, their privacy rights should also be protected to avoid discouraging them from seeking treatment, he said.

``We know that treatment is very, very effective,'' he said.

Federal officials must work closely with states to prevent and respond to threats, Gonzales said. ``They know best what the problems are, and they know best what the solutions are,'' he said.

Gonzales said violent campus incidents are rare.

``Schools are much safer quite frankly than the general population,'' he said.

Nationwide, colleges and universities reported just 15 murders or non-negligent homicides among about 17 million college students in 2004, according to federal figures.

But colleges are more vulnerable to other types of crime. There were nearly 40,000 burglaries and more than 3,600 forcible sexual assaults on college campuses in 2004.

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