- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

INDIANOLA, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa college is receiving pushback for its plan to hire a full-time coach for its shooting sports club.

The Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/1PUBPzJ ) reports that a petition for a weapons-free Simpson College garnered more than 130 signatures by Wednesday morning. It calls on the college’s board of trustees to reverse a decision to hire a coach and to stop letting students store firearms in a locked safe on campus.

A 1997 graduate, Rebecca Bentzinger, started the petition Jan. 27 after learning about the proposal to hire a coach.

Petition supporters argue that the college should fund academic programs instead of a firearms club in an era of mass shootings that have left campuses broken and students dead.

The petition also argues that the college, which is affiliated with the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church, should follow the denomination’s authority on social issues. The church’s Book of Resolutions says gun violence is a “disturbing” trend and calls on its members to support the reduction of guns available in society.

Club supporters say misinformation being spread about guns is breeding fear over a responsible, safe sport.

“There’s a big difference between gun violence and gun ownership,” said Adam Brustkern, the shooting club’s adviser. “There’s a lot of things that shouldn’t be lumped together, but unfortunately are being put into one category.”

A response petition in support of the club garnered more than 1,200 signatures by Wednesday morning.

The college’s shooting sports club has about 35 members, according to Jill Johnson, Simpson’s vice president of marketing and public relations. Johnson said the move to hire a coach was partly aimed at boosting enrollment.

By taking the club to a more competitive level, Johnson said, Simpson College could recruit from the more than 3,000 Iowa high school students who participated in shotgun shooting competitions through the Iowa Scholastic Clay Target program in 2015.

The board of trustees is expected to review the opposing petition Friday.

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

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