Some Iowa Students Skip School for Gun Control


The gun control group March for Our Lives is encouraging students in Iowa to skip class today and head to the state capitol to lobby for more gun control instead. Akshara Eswar, one of the anti-gun org’s state directors, told the Des Moines Register that many students are afraid after last week’s shooting at a high school in Perry left a sixth-grader killed and seven others wounded and the group is hoping to “utilize this energy” to demand lawmakers adopt several new restrictions aimed at legal gun owners.

March for Our Lives’ legislative priorities include a law that would require people to report lost or stolen firearms, and another that would temporarily ban people who have been proven to be at risk of harming themselves or others from purchasing or possessing a gun. The ban would be lifted once they received help.
“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 said.
Iowa lawmakers have not prioritized laws that directly impact the safety of children and people in the state in recent years, Eswar said. Instead, the focus has been on laws that ban books depicting sex acts from schools, mandate school administrators inform parents if a student asks to use different name or pronouns and ban transgender girls and women from playing sports.
“They use all of this in the name of protecting children,” she said. “But the reality is every day is a gamble. Every day we walk into school never actually knowing what’s going to happen that day and it’s not fair that we have to live in that fear.”

Will Eswar’s fears suddenly subside if lawmakers were to approve a “lost or stolen” bill and adopt a “red flag” law, and if so, why? It’s not like either of those laws have a proven track record of preventing violence, either on campus or off, and they’re going to be pretty much worthless when it comes to stopping crimes committed by juveniles like the 17-year-old murderer in Perry.

If Eswar is terrified to be in school, then why isn’t she leading a march calling for increased security on campus? Uniformed school resource officers, trained and vetted armed staff who could serve as a first line of defense for students, or a combination of the two would be helpful, but there are also physical changes to campuses that could be made to improve school safety. Iowa law allows schools to have armed school staff if school boards approve, but there have been issues with districts being able to find insurers willing to cover them if they do so. A bill filed last year in Iowa would have barred companies from denying coverage to districts because of their policies allowing armed staff on campus, but it failed to make it to Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Violence on campus doesn’t often involve a gun, so an approach that focuses exclusively on firearms may make gun control activists like Eswar feel safer, but it’s not going to do anything to actually make her more protected or secure while she’s in class. Instead of lobbying for “red flag” laws and “lost or stolen” legislation, she and the other students walking out of their schools would be better off demanding lawmakers pass a bill to that hurdle and increase the number of armed staff who are ready and able to respond if a cowardly killer sets foot on campus.


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