Iowa students to walk out in protest over school gun violence

By Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) – Students across Iowa planned to walk out of school on Monday and demonstrate at the state capitol, calling for lawmakers to take action to address gun violence after an 11-year-old was killed and five others wounded in a school shooting last week.

Students from at least 12 high schools are expected to protest on the grounds of the state’s capitol building in Des Moines at 1 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) as lawmakers begin their first legislation session of 2024.

March For Our Lives, the group organizing the event, “demands the Iowa State Legislature support its communities and school systems that are currently facing the threat of gun violence”, it said in an Instagram post. “Your inaction is killing us.”

Specifically, organizers are hoping to persuade lawmakers to halt proposed Republican-backed legislation that would allow guns to be stored in cars on school property.

The demonstration comes four days after a 17-year-old high school student shot and killed an 11-year-old sixth-grader and wounded five others at a school in Perry, a rural community near Des Moines.

The shooting, on the first day of classes following the district’s winter break, is part of a national epidemic of gun violence in U.S. schools that has worsened in recent years.

It was one of four such incidents that unfolded in the first week of the year after 2023 saw a record number of similar events in U.S. schools, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database.

Data shows that 346 incidents occurred in 2023 in which a gun was brandished or fired at school or a bullet hit school property. It was the most in any year since the organization began compiling the data in 1966, and it marks the third record-setting year in a row.

Next week, Iowa will take center stage in U.S. politics as the state hosts the first Republican nominating contests for the U.S. presidential election. Most of the Republican candidates ardently oppose any efforts to regulate guns and routinely dismiss calls for more gun control after mass shootings as attempts to politicize tragedies.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Sharon Singleton)