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Shootings at U.S. colleges deadlier and more frequent, report finds

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Shootings on college campuses over the last five years have more than doubled since a similar period a decade earlier, according to a report released on Monday by a criminal justice reform organization.

The incidents have also grown more deadly, with three times as many people injured or killed during the most recent five-year period, the New York City-based Citizens Crime Commission said.

“It is now appropriate to call our nation’s gun violence problem an epidemic,” said the commission’s president, Richard Aborn.

Following high-profile shooting incidents such as an attack on an Orlando gay nightclub in June that killed 49 people, the candidates for November’s presidential election have clashed on how to address gun violence. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton favors tougher gun control measures, while Republican Donald Trump has accused her of threatening to curtail Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms.

The fight over gun control has extended to college campuses, as several states have passed laws expanding the rights of gun owners to carry firearms while on school property. A new Texas law allowing students to carry guns on campus, for instance, has drawn protests.

Monday’s report examined 190 shootings from 2001 to 2016 that either involved an intentional shooting on campus or the shooting of a current student within two miles of campus.

There were 40 such incidents from 2001 to 2006 and 101 recorded shootings from 2011 to 2016.

The report also found that students are more likely to encounter gun violence in states where guns are readily accessible.

Just 12 states accounted for nearly two-thirds of the shootings, and those states are home to 44 percent of all federally licensed firearm dealers in the country. The commission said most of those states have less restrictive gun laws, as well.

While rampage-style mass shootings only accounted for five percent of the campus shootings, they produced the majority of the deaths and injuries, according to the report.

The 2007 attack at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, known as Virginia Tech, killed 32 and wounded 17. It was the worst campus shooting in U.S. history.

Current federal law requires colleges to report crimes that occur on campus but does not require schools to disclose whether firearms were used and if so, what type. The commission recommended that Congress amend the law so parents of prospective students can take that information into account.

The commission also called for several gun control measures, including mandatory safety training for gun purchasers, universal background checks and limiting the sale of multiple guns at once.

Editing by Frank McGurty and Frances Kerry