Iowa college to hire shooting coach despite alumni objection

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Posted: Feb 09, 2016 3:51 PM

INDIANOLA, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa college is sticking with its decision to hire a full-time coach for its shooting sports club, despite opposition from alumni and others who say guns have no place on the liberal arts school's campus.

Simpson College President Jay Simmons told the Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/20mdWkf ) that the school's board of trustees considered two dueling petitions about the student club's future on Friday.

Simmons said the board decided to hire a full-time coach and that the position will likely be offered to a candidate this week.

"Trustees agreed that Simpson's program is consistent with similar programs at the University of Iowa, Iowa State and many of Iowa's community colleges," Simmons said in a statement.

An online petition favoring a "weapons-free Simpson" opposed a $10,000 grant the club accepted in 2012 from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade group that spends millions on lobbying and opposes expanding background checks to cover private gun sales. The petition, started by 1977 graduate The Rev. Rebecca Bentzinger, on Jan. 27, asked the trustees to not hire a coach and to stop allowing firearms to be stored on campus.

Simmons said that the trustees directed the college's administration to review the location for equipment storage, policies for accepting gifts in support of the program and procedures for screening potential shooting club participants.

Bentzinger argued that devoting the school's resources to the shooting sport club conflicts with the doctrine of the United Methodist Church, of which the school is affiliated.

But Simmons cited two other similar programs at Methodist-affiliated schools — Wofford College in South Carolina and Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama.

Former U.S. Sen. John Culver and his wife, Mary Jane Checchi, wrote a letter to the board in support of the petition, calling on the school to return the $10,000 grant, which was used to pay for clay pigeons and other equipment.

College spokeswoman Jill Johnson has said administrators sought to hire a full-time coach for the club in an effort to boost enrollment at the school.

The shooting club at Simpson was founded in 2011 and has about 35 members.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com