As part of a multi-state effort by Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund to elect a “gun sense majority” in legislatures across the country, in Iowa, a Johnston woman penned a personal letter urging her fellow voters to elect lawmakers who will support gun safety legislation at the Capitol.
The letter is part of a $400,000 direct mail program initiated by Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and the Victory Fund to target “Republicans in the Iowa State House for their inaction on gun violence.”
The letter will be sent to voters in “vulnerable” House districts across the state.
Erica Fletcher, a health care worker, Army veteran and mother to young children, said she began advocating for gun violence prevention last summer after hearing her preschool-age son talk about active shooter drills.
“He’s a curious preschooler and had a lot of questions about the specifics and what to do and how to stay safe,” Fletcher told Starting Line. “It culminated with him asking, ‘Is that really all I can do? Is be a better hider than my friends so that they all get shot instead of me?’ I teared up and thought, I didn’t really know exactly what to do but I knew there was something more I could do. I found Moms Demand Action and went to my first monthly member meeting that week and have just been getting more and more involved ever since.”
Prior to her involvement with Moms Demand Action — Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots volunteer base — Fletcher said she likely would not have felt comfortable sending an advocacy letter across the state.
“I think a really surprising thing for me about being involved with Moms Demand Action is how they empower younger leaders and get them ready to take on larger roles in the community,” Fletcher said, referencing Sarah Trone Garriott of Windsor Heights, a Moms Demand Action volunteer campaigning for an open seat in the suburban Senate District 22.
While the state Senate has a lopsided 32-18 majority for Republicans, the Iowa House, with 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats, is in play.
Charlie Kelly, senior political advisor at Everytown for Gun Safety, recently told reporters there is “a tremendous opportunity to pick up the state House” in Iowa.
“While flipping the Iowa House is a fight, the state has become more competitive,” Kelly said. “Obviously [Barack] Obama had real success in 2008 and ’12, and Democrats picked up two seats in the U.S. House in 2018.”
The Des Moines Register reported in July the Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund was targeting state House races with a financial investment of at least $1 million. Fletcher’s letter and other mailers, as well as a digital ad about a gun-related bill that Gov. Kim Reynolds approved this year, is a large part of the group’s investment here.
On the call with reporters, Kelly highlighted Fairfield Rep. Jeff Shipley in House District 82 and Council Bluffs Rep. Brent Siegrist in HD 16.
“We see this is a top target,” Kelly said of HD 82, where Shipley won by only 37 votes in 2018. “This is a guy — he recently said that COVID isn’t killing anybody. And that just shows how out of touch he is. In the Council Bluffs district, Brent Siegrist, he won by just one point in 2018. I think Obama probably won five of these eight districts that we’re targeting.”
Fletcher’s letter, which directly mentions a new law to restrict local governments from enacting gun control measures in their communities, says “leaders in Des Moines are supposed to represent us. But when they don’t support policies that keep our families safe, I can’t support them. It’s up to us to take action. So remember to return your ballot if you’re voting by mail, or grab your mask and head to the polls to vote early in person or on November 3rd. Let’s elect leaders who will support commonsense gun safety laws that reduce gun violence and keep our children and communities safe.”
Being a gun owner and a veteran, Fletcher finds she is better able to talk with lawmakers and everyday Iowans about the importance of gun safety laws. The vast majority of gun deaths in the state are caused by suicide, she said, leading Moms Demand Action volunteers this year to advocate for a bill to allow law enforcement to temporarily prevent a person from purchasing a firearm if they are in crisis. The legislation went nowhere.
“They continue to side with the gun lobby and with special interests over our safety, health and security,” Fletcher said of Republicans in the Iowa Legislature. “That was part of why I wrote the letter, is to help voters see what’s at stake for my family and theirs, and how voting for gun sense candidates in our Statehouse can make a really big difference in creating a safer Iowa for all of us.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
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