University of Maryland, Baltimore President Jay A. Perman wants to use economic pressure to compel states to adopt stricter gun-control regulations.
In an open letter to the university community, Perman said he will ask professional and scientific groups to which he belongs to consider a state’s gun-control laws when choosing where to hold meetings and conferences.
“I will be talking with leaders of the professional and scientific organizations to which I belong, asking them to consider the strictness of a state’s gun-control laws when choosing meeting sites, and to shift their spending to those states whose lawmakers are more interested in protecting their citizens’ lives than in protecting their right to bear arms,” Perman wrote.
In an interview, Perman made clear that he was not setting a policy for the university or telling anyone at the university what they should do. Instead, he said, part of his role as president includes being a thought leader for the campus community and starting a discussion.
Perman’s letter came in response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last week. But his inspiration to use the economic incentives of group meetings and conferences came from the response to North Carolina’s HB2 in 2016, a “bathroom bill” removing LGBT protections that sparked boycotts.
Because of the bill, the NBA moved its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans and the NCAA moved postseason events away from North Carolina. Boycotts associated with the bill probably cost the state more than $3.7 billion, the Associated Press calculated.
“The law was reversed,” Perman said. “I was very impressed with that. …I filed that one away. And then, in the wake of the latest school shooting and the fact that again there is outrage but not action, I recalled that particular action.”
In his letter, Perman suggested that professional groups use rankings like the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence scorecard to help inform where to go for group meetings and conferences.
Perman has scheduled calls with several of his professional groups already to discuss the issue, and he said he has received calls and letters from colleagues at the university who have made similar suggestions to their professional groups.
A practicing pediatrician, Perman said he felt he had a responsibility beyond his duties as president to take action on gun violence.
“Quite frankly, I don’t shrink back from the fact that I am also a physician,” he said. “Pediatricians are taught to be child advocates, and this is a child advocacy issue.”
Perman is not the only university president in Maryland to speak out on political issues. University of Maryland, College Park President Wallace Loh has been a vocal proponent of immigration reform.
That freedom to speak out is a benefit to leading a university in the state, Perman said.
“People may have a disagreement with a Loh or a Perman on the position they have taken, but I have not heard the other side of it, ‘Hey, you are not allowed to take a position,’” he said. “That’s an important distinction.”