JoCo residents, UI students call for more restrictive gun laws

UI student Melissa Alvarez, with the support of Moms Demand Action, brought the Iowa City community together on Saturday to protest gun violence.


Avi Lapchick

University of Iowa sophomore Melissa Alvarez delivers a speech on the Pentacrest in Iowa City, Iowa during the march for gun safety on Saturday, April 8, 2023.

Emily Delgado, Politics Reporter

More than 50 Iowa City residents and University of Iowa students marched from the Iowa City Pedestrian Mall to the Pentacrest on Saturday to protest gun violence.

The nonprofit, the Gun Violence Archive, reported 143 mass shootings in the U.S. four months into the new year. UI second-year student Melissa Alvarez, who organized the event, said it’s time to take action on gun violence instead of waiting for someone else to make a change.

“It really was a community effort,” Alvarez said. “And I’m just grateful that everyone was able to do a little bit into it.”

The group walked from the Ped Mall to the Pentacrest while chanting “not one more” and “enough is enough” and sported orange shirts and orange ribbons. The color orange is associated with gun violence prevention. Alvarez said the Johnson County chapter of Moms Demand Action helped host the event.

A person holds a sign that says “Disarm hate” on the Pentacrest in Iowa City, Iowa during the march for gun safety on Saturday, April 8, 2023. (Avi Lapchick)

The protesters looked to stress the number of school shootings that have occurred in the past decade. Alvarez read the names of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012 and the May 2022 Robb Elementary School shooting in Ulvade, Texas.

“We are so tired, so tired, of gun safety laws not being implemented that would save so many lives,” Alvarez said.

Gun violence was the cause of death of 1,291 Iowans from 2018-21, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those deaths, 233 were homicides.

In past Iowa legislative sessions, Iowa Republican lawmakers have introduced nonrestrictive gun laws in the state to make owning a gun more accessible. During the 2021 legislative session, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds removed the requirement to purchase, attain, or carry a gun in a public place.

“This is happening right here. Reynolds says the educational system is the one to blame that the educational system has failed us. No. You have failed us,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez is studying elementary education at the UI and said it pains her to see the numerous headlines about gun violence in K-12 school settings as a future educator.

“Their solutions? Banning books. Their solutions? arming teachers,” Alvarez said. “Arming teachers. You can’t trust me to decide if my students should read a certain book but you’ll trust me with the weapon in my class.”

In recent weeks, Iowa, among other GOP-led states in the country, has banned books that are considered dangerous and a threat to students because of obscene content.

Protesters are seen standing on the Pentacrest in Iowa City, Iowa, during the march for gun safety on Saturday, April 8, 2023. (Avi Lapchick)

As Republican lawmakers in and out of Iowa continue to introduce legislation attacking the education system, Sen. Janice Weiner, D-Iowa City said people need to keep showing up and protesting to help get things accomplished.

“So let’s get gun safety on the legislature’s docket. Let’s get it done,” Weiner said.

Rep. Elinor Levin, D-Iowa City, and Iowa City City Councilor Andrew Dunn, also spoke at the protest.

“I can’t do my job because we are being pushed back at every turn every time we want to talk about the real root causes of gun violence,” Levin said.