Today, April 20, Iowa students will stage walkouts and demonstrations against gun violence at schools across Iowa. The event is organized by the group Students United Against Gun Violence Walkout. The group has events planned nationwide at over 2,000 schools.
In central Iowa, many will board busses to come to the Iowa State Capitol to meet with legislators between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Iowa student activists Sam Spackman of Waukee was quoted in the Des Moines Register about their goals.
“We wanted to do something that we can communicate very specific ideas of what we wanted to do, what we want state legislators or even national legislators to do,” Spackman said.
According to other Iowa organizers, “It will be a chance for students to ask legislators to make common-sense gun and mental healthcare reforms.”
Following the Parkland High School shootings, the dialogue on gun violence has changed dramatically. Students across the nation have been energized and it appears they won’t accept any more excuses or procrastination on acting on gun violence. They are demanding the enactment of gun safety measures and they aren’t backing down.
Part of the motivation for these students is the realization that Parkland High School in Florida is just like their schools. It can happen anywhere.
“What really hit home for me is that when you look at the school in Parkland, Stoneman Douglas, it’s so similar to my high school,” Spackman said. “It could have just as easily been here.”
Another Iowa student mentioned how the Columbine High School shooting was a symbolic anniversary since it occurred just as many current high school seniors were born. The Columbine, Colorado shooting took place April 20, 1999 just 19 years ago today.
“Columbine is not the first mass shooting, but it’s the first high-profile mass shooting that sticks in everyone’s mind,” Norwalk senior Noah Percy said. “That display of violence kind of kicked off our lives.”
The student organizers have compiled a very specific set of demands.
- Banning assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks
- Mandating universal background checks
- Placing a minimum age of 21 on all gun purchases
- Implementing waiting periods between a gun purchase and gun transfer
- Allowing families to petition the court to remove guns from individuals at risk of injuring themselves or others
- Eliminating “shoot first” or “stand your ground” laws
- Prohibiting the transfer of military grade weaponry to police departments
Just as Iowa students are joining the nationwide efforts to improve gun safety, a new report from the Center for American Progress provides some useful data on gun violence in Iowa. Titled, Gun Violence in Iowa-A Cautionary Tale, it describes the 2017 Iowa legislature’s moves to weaken gun safety laws and recommends reversing these. Iowa ranks relatively low in gun death rates, but gun violence is significant. The report highlights the fact that every 39 hours, a person is killed with a gun in Iowa.
- From 2007 to 2016, 2,253 Iowans were killed with a gun.
- A gun theft occurs every five hours in Iowa.
- Firearms are the most common method used to commit suicide in Iowa.
- From 2007 to 2016, at least 43 percent of Iowa’s domestic violence gun homicides of women were committed with long guns.
- African Americans make up 4 percent of the state’s population but account for 31 percent of its gun homicide victims.
The report offers specific recommendations to stem gun violence in Iowa. Many would reverse the 2017 Iowa legislature’s weakening of Iowa gun laws.
- Close the long gun loophole and require background checks for all long gun sales.
- Enact a gun violence restraining order
- Require gun owners to report lost or stolen guns
- Restore law enforcement discretion in the issuance of concealed carry permits
- Repeal the dangerous “stand your ground” law
Students across the nation are courageously speaking up and boldly demanding adults get serious about passing common sense gun safety measures. They need our support and respect.
by Rick Smith