The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa lawmakers prioritize gun safety, school security in opening remarks

As lawmakers return to the Capitol to start another legislative session, the fatal shooting prompts some legislative leaders to commit to change.
Ayrton Breckenridge
State representatives stand for a moment of silence for the school shooting that happened in Perry, Iowa, during the first day of the 2024 Iowa legislative session at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024. The shooting took place on Jan. 4.

DES MOINES — Days after a fatal shooting at a Perry, Iowa, high school, state legislators made violence in schools a top priority for the 2024 legislative session on Monday.

Republicans expressed plans to increase school security and Democrats prioritized changes to mental health and gun safety in the state. 

During their opening remarks, Democratic leaders and House Speaker Iowa Rep. Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, committed to change. 

A 17-year-old student killed 11-year-old Ahmir Jolliff, a sixth-grade student at the adjoining Perry Middle School, and injured five others, including Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger on Jan. 4.

During his opening remarks on Monday, Grassley said House Republicans plan to invest in school safety infrastructure by prioritizing school resource officers, allocating dollars to school security, and protecting children’s mental health. 

“People choose Iowa because our state is viewed as safe,” Grassley said. “So when we see these senseless acts of violence in our own home state, in our own schools, it shakes us to our core. In Iowa, every parent should be able to send their kids to school and trust that they will return home safe.” 

Iowa gun laws are considered lax by gun safety reform advocates, like the Giffords Law Center, a nonprofit focused on promoting the end of gun violence, which gave Iowa an F on its 2024 report card

Iowa voters also ratified an amendment to the Iowa Constitution in 2022 that requires laws restricting gun rights to be reviewed using strict scrutiny when challenged in a court of law.

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, started his opening remarks by thanking the law enforcement officers who responded to the shooting on Jan. 4. 

“While we cannot legislate away evil and get rid of all the bad things in the world, we will keep our thoughts and prayers with Perry as we move forward to put in place policies to help make our state better and stronger,” Whitver said. 

View more from the opening day of the Iowa legislative session:

Whitver didn’t outline any specific policies that Senate Republicans would implement but committed to increasing funding to police and law enforcement in the budget. 

Senate President Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, echoed Whitver‘s appreciation for the law enforcement response. 

“My thoughts and prayers remain with the victims, families, and Perry community, and my heartfelt thanks goes to all of the first responders who helped save lives,” she said. 

The first officer was on the scene within seven minutes, according to law enforcement officials following the shooting. 

On Monday afternoon, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced she signed a disaster proclamation for Dallas County allowing state aid from all Iowa agencies to flow unhindered by bureaucratic processes to the Perry community in the aftermath of the shooting. 

“Through this proclamation, I am unleashing the full power of the state government to help Perry High School, the Perry community, and Dallas County recover from this senseless tragedy,” Reynolds said. 

Democrats advocate for change in opening remarks

Iowa Senate Democrats leader Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, said in the wake of the shooting, legislators must act on gun safety legislation and find a solution to gun violence. 

Jochum said legislators need to invest in youth mental health services and increase support for public schools in the state. “No child should go to school fearing for their lives, but today, millions do,” Jochum said. “Gun safety should not be a partisan issue. Protecting kids should not be a partisan issue. It’s time for us to come together with real solutions.” 

House Democrats leader Jennifer Konfrst said lawmakers are starting the session “under a cloud.” 

“The shooting in Perry has shaken us to our core,” Konfrst said. “We are scared. Parents are scared to take their kids to school. We are scared to be in the Capitol and we are scared to be in public places. It’s simply time to do something.” 

Konfrst said lawmakers need to commit to bipartisan action on gun safety and improving school safety this session. 

“We don’t know all the details about what happened in Perry, but we do know this: We have to do something,” Konfrst said. “It’s not enough just to move on. Ahmir deserves better, and so do all our kids.”

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About the Contributors
Liam Halawith
Liam Halawith, Politics Editor
Liam Halawith is a third-year student at the University of Iowa studying Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Public Policy. Before his role as Politics Editor Liam was a politics reporter for the DI. Outside of the DI Liam has interned at the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Southeast Iowa Union. This is his second year working for the DI.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.