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Hundreds of students in Iowa walk out in wake of school shooting

Iowa students walked out demanding stricter gun laws after a shooting at Perry High School killed a sixth-grader and injured seven others.
Hundreds of students in Iowa walk out in wake of school shooting
Posted at 3:11 PM, Jan 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-08 17:33:57-05

In the wake of a deadly school shooting at Perry High School in Iowa, nearly 300 students across the state staged a walkout Monday and gathered at the state Capitol to plead for better gun laws.

The walkout, organized by the Iowa chapter of March for Our Lives, a youth-led organization fighting to end gun violence, comes days after the tragic shooting at Perry High School last Thursday. During the shooting, a 17-year-old took the life of a sixth-grader and injured seven others before succumbing to a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“Each day, families must choose between sending their children to school to get an education or keeping them at home to protect their safety. Governor Reynolds can make this choice easier by passing a gun legislation that will actually keep children safe, because we choose policy and change over more empty thoughts and prayers,” Hannah Hayes, the state director of March for Our Lives, said during her speech addressing students at the Capitol. 

The protest aligns with the kickoff of the 2024 legislative session in Iowa on Monday. With Republicans dominating, holding 64 out of 100 seats in the Iowa House, a supermajority in the Iowa Senate, and the governor's office, there's anticipation of swift consideration for an education bill.

Hayes, who is a senior at Roosevelt high school, also used her speech to underscore this session and the approaching Iowa caucus next week, emphasizing that these high school students are reaching voting age and reminding current government officials of their growing political frustrations.

"It is not only the first day of the legislative session; it also marks one week from the Iowa caucuses, where voters will show the nation where our priorities lie. As a newly eligible voter, I will be choosing leaders that prioritize my safety by working to end gun violence. Now the same principle applies, goes for all elected officials. If they don't protect the people, then we will choose to vote them out because enough is enough,” said Hayes.

Iowa students in Pleasant Valley, Des Moines, West Des Moines, Waukee, Urbandale, Bettendorf and Johnston participated in the walkout that started around noon local time, leaving school before heading to the state Capitol.

"The shooting has hit really close to home for a lot of us. People are angry. They're thinking about it constantly," Akshara Eswar, an executive state director for March For Our Lives Iowa, told the Des Moines Register.

"That's all that we can talk about and so we need to utilize this energy ... and try to make sure that our legislators know that we are not happy with the state of the gun laws in Iowa," Eswar continued.

Eswar, who is also a senior at Johnston High School, said MFOL Iowa plans to deliver a letter to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds during the protest. Scripps News has reached out to MFOL for a copy of the letter, but has not heard back.

The number of U.S. school shootings in 2023 hit a record high for the country for a second year in a row, according to federal data

There have already been six mass shootings in the first week of 2024, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

SEE MORE: Principal critically injured in Iowa school shooting, police say


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