It could happen here

Iowa needs action to prevent gun violence

In this 2018, photo, a woman places roses on a stage during a vigil at Pine Trails Park for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla.

One year ago, a momentous tragedy shook the United States. Seventeen students and staff were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14, 2018. It was not the first time such a tragedy had happened and it wouldn’t be the last time. Since the Parkland shooting, more than 1,100 U.S. children have died from gun violence, which includes accidents and domestic incidents beyond school shootings.

It could happen anywhere — including our community.

The survivors of the Parkland shooting have changed the narrative about gun violence. They made their tragedy matter long after a few weeks, when national attention may have tapered off in the past. The survivors saw classmates die, faced their own injuries and will forever be marked by trauma. Yet, they still stood and with a firm voice started a movement. They told the nation thoughts and prayers are not enough — they told us we need action.

One year later, some action has happened. In 2018, 26 states passed laws meant to address gun violence, according to Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Iowa was not one of them. In fact, a current bill under consideration in the Iowa Senate proposes Iowans wouldn’t need a permit to carry a firearm or buy a gun in a person-to-person sale.

The debate on gun violence has long been stalled by partisan arguments about the Second Amendment. On one side, there is fear the government will take all guns from civilians. On the other side, there is fear that more gun ownership means more gun violence. This partisanship solves nothing. The Second Amendment is a foundation to our freedom, but without some regulation no one can truly be free when children can’t go to class without fear the next mass schooting will happen at their school.

One way or another, we have to address gun violence. Not with our thoughts and prayers, but with action from our lawmakers at the local, state and national level.

We believe a variety of actions related to gun violence should draw bipartisan support. First, some reform doesn’t require addressing the weapons themselves. More education on gun violence and gun safety is needed. Background checks need to be more thorough. Mental health resources are paramount and early signs of threats to others or oneself must be taken seriously by local law enforcement. Mental health and law enforcement resources must be well funded in order to do this.

The weapons themselves must also be addressed. Hunting and self-defense weaponry are a right, but must be regulated. However, the claim civilians need assault weapons and bump stocks has no merit.

Various polls show the majority of Americans believe stricter gun laws are needed but for too long, lawmakers have sat inactive in making laws to protect us from gun violence. That’s partially because large donations from the National Rifle Association sway our representatives. Our own U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst has been ranked among the top 10 members of Congress to accept millions in contributions from the organization that has lobbied to stall many bills with common-sense reform. The NRA is an important organization for providing trainings to gun owners, promoting responsibility in shooting sports and standing firm on our constitutional right to the Second Amendment. The organization should put more money toward these efforts rather than toward lobbying our lawmakers against safety regulations.

Parkland survivors are leading a petition in Florida right now to let voters decide whether they think assault weapons should be banned. If they garner enough signatures, the question would appear on the state’s 2020 ballots.

The ban on assault weapons “would outlaw the civilian possession of any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than 10 rounds at any time ‘either in fixed or detachable magazine, or any other ammunition-feeding device.’ Assault weapons that were legally purchased before the ban kicks in will remain legal as long as they registered,” according to the Miami Herald.

Perhaps if a federal or state ban is not possible, Iowans could take up a similar initiative. But we can only hope that our representatives want to keep us safe too.

The Marshalltown community knows all too well what tragedy feels like. If we can be proactive in avoiding more tragedy, why aren’t we? Gun violence is in many ways preventable. Do your part by calling your representatives and asking them to support common-sense gun reform.