Kerrey on School Shootings, Gay Marriage

Some other interesting bits from my interview with New School president and former Senator Bob Kerrey that didn't make it into  today's paper… 

Kerrey, a Democrat, thinks that the Virginia Tech shootings do not directly raise the question of gun control, but rather of mental health on American campuses.

"This is a largely a university problem, not a gun control problem," he said. "This is the issue of in loco parentis. We have a significant fraction of undergraduate students who are going into universities and colleges across the country who have mental health problems. Maybe one out of five that are on medication of some kind."

He said that the widespread policy of keeping of students' health problems confidential from their parents should be revisited.

"All of us in higher education are really having second thoughts about this because that's the real question," Kerrey said. "This is really about how you govern higher education. I do not think gun control is the first issue."

On the suddenly news-y topic of gay marriage, Kerrey explained how he thinks Democrats should frame the issue, and used the John Kerry 2004 campaign as an illustration of how they shouldn't. 

"I think John missed an opportunity," Kerrey said. "A woman asked him do you think people are born gay or straight, and John didn't answer that question and that it is the most important question."

Kerrey said the lesson about the gay marriage debate is that Democrats need to engage social conservatives on their ground by a clear moral argument.

"I would recommend that a candidate answer the question saying, 'Look, I think God puts people on earth gay and straight.' I would start with that. It's a religious belief."