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Mason defends UI's role in issuing gun permits

BY QUENTIN MISIAG | MARCH 15, 2013 5:00 AM

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In response to the Sunday evening death of University of Iowa mechanical engineering graduate student Taleb Salameh, UI President Sally Mason defended the university’s right in having a say in the issuing of gun permits to students.

Salameh died on the scene after a standoff with police at the Holiday Mobile Home Court in North Liberty on Sunday. He allegedly shot and wounded three officers during the incident.

“I think there is potentially a place for us to be able to share information that we might have that would be helpful to the sheriff,” Mason told The Daily Iowan on Thursday. “Again, we are going to wait and see what the Department of Education says with regard to what that information should be, if any. We are very much in favor of being able to cooperate with local law enforcement anytime we can be helpful and useful.”

Mason called Sunday’s outcome “a tragedy” and said it is always sad to see violent situations result in a loss of life.

“My heart goes out to his family — what a shame for his family,” she said. “My heart also goes out to the officers that were wounded in this encounter. It’s unfortunate all the way around.”

UI spokesman Tom Moore echoed the thoughts of Mason.

“Our hearts go out to all the officers injured and hope they make a full recovery,” Moore said. “It’s extremely unfortunate whenever violence occurs anywhere in our community.”

UI officials disclose information to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office when a student applies for a gun permit.  The practice is currently suspended, following a recent Des Moines Register investigation into the practice.

After Salameh applied for a gun permit in 2010, UI Dean of Students David Grady recommended to the Sheriff’s Office that the permit be denied. Grady cited a past criminal record and potential mental health concerns for his recommendation to hold off on approving the permit request until at least 2011. Salameh’s prior run-ins with the law include public intoxication and assault causing injury charges on Sept. 11, 2010.

Since becoming dean of students in 2009, Grady has only suggested denying two students’ requests for gun permits, including Salameh’s.

“I have serious reservations about Mr. Salameh’s intention to purchase a handgun,” Grady said in a letter to Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek in 2010. “… I respectfully request that you carefully consider this information when evaluating Mr. Salameh’s application for the gun permit.”

According to documents, Salameh’s psychologist, Gregory Gullickson, also wrote to Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek in a 2010 letter, supporting Salameh’s application for a gun permit in February 2010. Salameh was issued a permit later that month.

However, Sheriff’s Lt. Bill Deatsch said in a Thursday evening email statement that Salameh possessed a permit to purchase a weapon, but not an additional one to carry a firearm. He emphasized a clear distinction between the two.

“There is a major difference between a permit to purchase a weapon and a permit to carry a weapon,” he said. “My recollection is that Mr. Salameh only had a permit to purchase a weapon, which expired in 2012.”

Mason said the university’s practice of sharing information about students with the Sheriff’s office is, as of Thursday, still suspended. the Register investigation revealed that some information the university shared was protected by the Family Education and Privacy Act. UI officials have no timeline for when, or if, information sharing would start up again.

“We are waiting to hear from the Department of Education on whether or not [the Family Education and Privacy Act] would allow us to share information the way we had been,” she said. “Once we get some information, we will decide what the next steps will be.”


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