Gov. Kim Reynolds said the “real tragedy” behind the March 7 fatal shooting outside of East High School in Des Moines was the educational system letting those kids down.
Reynolds made those remarks to the media during a Wednesday press conference at the Des Moines International Airport. She was there to announce that $100 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds would be going toward Iowa’s commercial airports.
The governor’s “real tragedy” comment was in response to a question about whether she thinks Iowa needs stronger gun laws after the shooting, which left 15-year-old Jose Lopez-Perez dead and two other teens hospitalized.
The six suspects in the drive-by shooting were 14-18 years in age. Reynolds said she does not think the accused shooters obtained the guns legally and that Iowa has existing gun laws.
“While it happened outside of a school, that could have happened in a neighborhood, it could have happened anyway,” Reynolds said. “They were targeting the individual, so they had made a decision to go after him and that’s where they found him.
“But I think the tragedy is our system, our educational system is letting these kids down. They should have been in school,” she continued. “We should be figuring out resources to help them stay there and to help them get an education and a life where they can take care of themselves and their family.”
Reynolds’ comments were condemned by Iowa House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst (D-Windsor Heights) in a release.
“After 30 years in office, Kim Reynolds has lost her way,” she said. “Even in the face of a tragic school shooting, Governor Reynolds refuses to stop playing politics. Her recent comments placing blame on public schools for the high school shooting last week are reprehensible.
“Iowans know the real tragedy is that a 15-year-old has died and two remain in the hospital. We pray and mourn with the families affected and the community at East High.”
One of Reynolds’ legislative pushes this year is for student-first scholarships, a voucher-like program that would allow the use of public funds to fund private school education.
Reynolds’ comments were also condemned by Progress Iowa Executive Director Matt Sinovic, who called the shooting “senseless” in a separate release.
“Governor Kim Reynolds chose to pass the buck onto Iowa educators in her first public comments about the tragic shooting,” he said. “She could have offered solutions. She could have offered support.
“Instead she passed the buck, blaming the hard-working education professionals of our state’s already underfunded schools,” Sinovic continued. “Reynolds has had a decade as Lt. Governor and Governor. During that time we’ve seen weakened gun laws, including lowering the age of handgun use to 14 and removing required permits for purchasing firearms.”
Reynolds never issued a formal press release following the March 7 shooting; however, she did provide some media outlets with a response when asked.
“I’m praying for the victims of this senseless act of violence,” she told the Des Moines Register. “I am heartbroken for the families and the pain felt across the entire community.”
by Ty Rushing