Iowa students to walkout to state capitol after school shooting: We must use this energy


Following a tragic shooting at Perry High School, Iowa students plan to walk out of class and march to the state Capitol on Monday to protest politicians’ inaction on gun violence.

March For Our Lives Iowa issued the invitation for kids to participate only hours after authorities say a Perry High School student shot and killed a sixth-grader and injured seven others at the school on Thursday. After students continually expressed their outrage about the school shooting, the group decided to organize a walkout.

“The shooting has hit really close to home for a lot of us,” Akshara Eswar, one of the organization’s executive state directors, told the Des Moines Register, which is part of the USA TODAY Network. “People are upset. They are continuously thinking about it.”

“That’s all we can talk about,” Eswar remarked, “therefore we need to use this energy… … try to let our legislators know that we are dissatisfied with the state of Iowa’s gun regulations.”

Students in Des Moines, Bettendorf, Johnston, Waukee, and West Des Moines are scheduled to strike at noon on Monday.

According to Eswar, a Johnston High School student, the organization intends to present a letter outlining its legislative priorities to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. The first day of the 2024 legislative session is likewise Monday.

Mass shootings in the United States have often prompted gun control supporters to push for tougher gun restrictions, and Thursday’s shooting was no exception. Several gun control advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers condemned the shooting within hours.

Iowa students to walkout to state capitol after school shooting: We must use this energy

For the second year in a row, the number of school shootings in the United States reached a new high in 2023. According to recent federal data, there were 188 shootings with fatalities at public and private elementary schools during the 2021-22 school year.

‘We are frightened of going to school.’

The legislative priorities of March for Our Lives include requiring people to report lost or stolen firearms and temporarily prohibiting people who have been proven to be at risk of killing themselves or others from obtaining or having a gun. Once they obtained assistance, the ban would be revoked.

“I think our biggest hope or agenda item, I would say for this, is that legislators understand that we are terrified to be in school,” Eswar went on to explain.

In recent years, Iowa lawmakers have not prioritized laws that directly affect the protection of children and individuals in the state, according to Eswar. Instead, the attention has been on legislation that requires school administrators to notify parents if a kid requests to use a new name or pronouns, and prohibits transgender girls and women from participating in sports.

“They use all of this in the name of protecting children,” she went on to say. “However, the reality is that every day is a gamble.” Every day, we walk into school without knowing what will happen, and it’s not fair that we have to live in that fear.”

An 11-year-old boy was killed in the Perry High School shooting

Iowa students to walkout to state capitol after school shooting: We must use this energy

The attack on Thursday surprised Perry, a small town of almost 8,000 people about 40 miles northwest of Des Moines. Authorities and school officials say a kid armed with a pump-action shotgun and a small-caliber handgun opened fire at Perry High School on Thursday, shortly before classes resumed on the first day back after winter break.

According to Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation spokeswoman Mitch Mortvedt, the shooting began in the cafeteria, where kids of various grades were eating breakfast, and then spread beyond the cafeteria.

Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger and six people, including two staff members and four adolescent students, were killed, and Ahmir Jolliff was killed. Dylan Butler, 17, was eventually identified as the gunman, who died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.

Ahmir attended Perry Middle School and was in sixth grade. Ahmir’s family noted in an obituary published in the Des Moines Register that he leaves behind a “legacy of love, compassion, and advocacy for those in need.”

The family also requested that those bidding farewell endeavor to carry on his legacy and share his “unwavering determination to make the world a brighter place.” His funeral will be held at Perry’s St. Patrick Catholic Church one week after the tragedy.

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