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

JoCo legislators discuss gun reform at public forum

The League of Women Voters of Johnson County hosted a forum for JoCo legislators to discuss their legislative priorities on Saturday morning.
Madison Frette
Iowa Sen. Janice Weiner, D-Iowa City, speaks at a public forum hosted by the League of Women’s Voters of Johnson County in the Iowa City Senior Center on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. The forum is the first of three scheduled during the 2024 Legislative session and the topic of discussion is education.

Johnson County legislators discussed universal background checks, red flag laws, and safe gun storage at a public forum following the Perry School shooting earlier this month. 

The League of Women Voters of Johnson County hosted the forum on Saturday after week three of the 2024 Iowa legislative session. Democratic Johnson County legislators presented education policy plans and ideas for gun reform; Republican legislators were not present at the event, despite being invited. 

The Jan. 4 shooting at a high school Perry High School left many Iowans looking to lawmakers to enact change, but there has been little Republican legislative progress on guns — or school safety — after the fatal shooting that resulted in the death of sixth-grader Ahmir Jolliff, Principal Dan Marburger, and injured five others. 

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, requested that the Oversight Committee examine the incident at Perry to determine what happened, which could lead to solutions. 

Senator Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, credited Republican control of the House, Senate, and governor’s office as the result of relaxed common sense protections on gun safety. 

“Democrats who have constantly voted against these rollbacks have warned over and over and over that the end result of this is going to be dead children, and unfortunately, that has proven to be correct,” Wahls said.

Wahls introduced legislation last week in an attempt to reverse a Republican bill that ended requirements for permits and background checks on private sales of handguns. 

“In reality, we absolutely should have a background check on every single sale of a handgun in this state,” Wahls said. “I can’t tell you for sure that that would have prevented what happened in Perry, but I can tell you for sure that’s something that 90 percent of Iowans support and that Iowa Republicans should absolutely move forward with this legislative session.”

Rep. Elinor Levin, D-Iowa City, will be on a subcommittee to discuss a policy that would create a voluntary program to allow gun dealers to offer safe storage for Iowans who want to own guns but want to store them outside of their homes. 

Iowa Sen. Janice Weiner, D-Iowa City, said several Democrats are introducing common sense gun safety legislation. 

Weiner is drafting two bills on gun reform, one of which is a red flag law — a law that allows people to petition for the temporary confiscation of someone’s firearms if they are deemed to be a risk to themselves or others. 

Red flag laws are a part of the Biden Administration’s effort to combat gun violence. Currently, 21 states have enacted red flag laws, according to an analysis by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun safety advocacy organization. 

Weiner said she holds no hope that her bills will be passed this legislative session, but it is still important to introduce them to make a point because “we have to care about our kids more than we care about our guns.”

Rep. Adam Zabner, D-Iowa City, spoke about a Republican bill introduced last year that attempted to allow firearms on school parking lots. The bill was passed in a 62-37 vote in the Iowa House but was ultimately struck down in the Senate. 

Zabner has co-sponsored gun reform legislation and pushed bills on universal background checks and red flag laws. 

Zabner said there has been bipartisan movement at the federal level in the “right direction.” Federal funding provides states with financial support to implement red flag laws. 

“I hope that what Republicans will learn from that bipartisan bill at the federal level is that it is popular and helpful to support common sense gun safety, and we need to do more,” he said. “I continue to hold that hope that we will take action before we see another horrific tragedy in our schools.”

Iowa Republican leaders emphasized investment in school safety infrastructure and children’s mental health following the shooting, but have otherwise shied away from promising reforms to gun laws. 

While Democratic lawmakers look to popular gun safety measures for solutions, an amendment to the Iowa Constitution, ratified by Iowa voters in 2022, requires laws restricting the right to bear arms to be reviewed under strict scrutiny when challenged in court.

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About the Contributors
Roxy Ekberg
Roxy Ekberg, Politics Reporter
Roxy Ekberg is a first year at the University of Iowa. In the Honors Program, she is double majoring in journalism and political science with a minor in Spanish. Prior to her role as a politics reporter, she worked news reporter at the Daily Iowan and worked at her local newspaper The Wakefield Republican.
Madison Frette
Madison Frette, Photojournalist
Madison Frette is a second-year student at The University of Iowa double majoring in Business Analytics and Information Systems and Cinematic Arts. This is her first year working as a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan.