URI prof cites threats for 'head on a stick' tweet
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A University of Rhode Island history professor who wrote on Twitter that he wanted to see the National Rifle Association president’s head ‘‘on a stick’’ says he has received death threats and been interviewed by state police.
Erik Loomis, who teaches American history on the South Kingstown campus, posted the tweet after the school shooting in Connecticut. He said it wasn’t a threat of violence — it was a metaphor.
‘‘I want to make it blindingly clear that I did not call for the assassination of Wayne LaPierre,’’ Loomis wrote in a Tuesday post on the website Lawyers, Guns & Money, a self-described politics and culture blog. ‘‘In my world, calling for someone’s head on a stick is a metaphor to hold them responsible for their actions. I think the last time ‘head on a stick’ actually meant murder was sometime around 1450. That anyone would take this seriously as a murder threat is completely absurd.’’
In an email to The Associated Press, Loomis said that police are ‘‘primarily concerned about my personal safety.’’
Lt. Brian Casilli, a state police spokesman, said authorities initially interviewed Loomis on Monday to determine whether his tweet amounted to a criminal threat. They determined it did not.
Casilli said police are concerned about the ‘‘antagonistic’’ tone of communications sent to Loomis and are monitoring the situation.
Loomis said on his blog that he had been expecting to have a meeting with the dean, but he did not elaborate in his email to The AP. He said the issue of gun violence is ‘‘very personal’’ to him; he said the Spanish teacher in his high school in Springfield, Ore., was killed by her son, Kip Kinkel, in 1998. Kinkel was convicted of killing both his parents and two classmates when he opened fire the next day at a high school.
URI President David Dooley said in a statement the university doesn’t condone ‘‘acts or threats of violence’’ and that Loomis’ remarks don’t reflect the views of the university. A spokesman said the university had no further comment.
A message was left at the NRA.
Loomis posted the comment after the shooting in Newtown, Conn., last week that killed 20 children and six women at Sandy Hook Elementary School. His Twitter account has since been deactivated, but he has remained outspoken on Lawyers, Guns & Money.
‘‘Do I think the National Rifle Association is culpable for the murders of thousands of people in the United States and Mexico because of the policies they support? Yes,’’ he wrote Tuesday. ‘‘Do I think it is reasonable to call the National Rifle Association a terrorist organization? Although obviously using more than a little hyperbole, yes.’’
Loomis said that if he had used violent metaphors, ‘‘that’s a bad thing.’’
‘‘I will admit that at certain moments such language might become part of my vocabulary,’’ he wrote. ‘‘But then I'm a product of the same violent culture that makes real discussion about guns virtually impossible.’’