The National Urban League and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has teamed up with Plaxico Burress, a former wide receiver for the New York Giants, to promote a public relations campaign aimed at reducing the use of guns and encouraging education and anti-violence, particularly among young people.
“I want to see every child have a chance to succeed,” says Burress, 33, who was released from prison earlier this month. “I paid a tremendous price for a bad decision. Now, I have an opportunity to make a difference, and the National Urban League is on the front lines, creating opportunities.”
Burress, who served a two-year sentence after pleading guilty to weapon charges, is just the kind of ambassador needed to help send a message about the need to eliminate guns, says Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Center and the former mayor of Fort Wayne, Ind.
“Here is a chance to have someone who concedes that he messed up but learned from his mistake tell others ‘Guns don’t make you cool. Guns don’t make you gain respect,” Helmke said in an interview with Diverse. “[Burress] has learned directly, and painfully, about the risks of gun ownership and understands that he has an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children, athletes and the entire sports community.”
Even as the Brady Center and the Urban League fight to curtail the use of firearms in society—particularly in the minority community where the gun debate has been revived—some gun advocates like David Burnett of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus are arguing that faculty, students and staff on college campuses be armed.
“You cannot erect a sign up on campus that says no guns allowed and expect that people will follow that rule,” says Burnett, whose group has about 42,000 members with chapters across the nation and a growing following on the Internet. “Virginia Tech woke us all up and made us realize these colleges are entirely vulnerable. We have to be able to protect ourselves.”
Last month, the Texas Senate passed a controversial bill that would allow concealed handguns on state college campuses, and several other states are currently considering similar measures. There are 24 states that prohibit “concealed carry” on college campuses even by persons with a valid concealed handgun license or permit.
Fifteen “Right-to-Carry” states leave the decision of concealed carry on college campuses entirely to each college and university. A person with a license or permit who was caught carrying a firearm on a college campus could not be held criminally liable but students and employees of a university would be expelled or have their employment terminated, says Burnett. Utah is the only state to allow concealed carry at all public colleges and universities by prohibiting public colleges and universities from creating their own restrictions.
Private colleges and universities are allowed to set their own policies.
“Why should a college campus be different,” says Burnett, adding that a campaign is under way to encourage state legislatures to follow Texas’ lead.
College officials say they are becoming increasingly alarmed that more and more college students are arriving on campuses with handguns in their possession. In 2007, Delaware State University, a Black college, went on lockdown after two college students were shot on campus in the early morning hours.
Between 1979 and 2007, gun violence has increased by 61 percent in the African-American community.