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The End of School Shootings Starts With Stricter Gun Laws

Lili Moessner
City High Students protest the Perry High School Shooting on January 8th, 2024

If you grab a map and locate City High, then draw an approximately 150-mile straight line to the left along I-80 with a short diagonal tail at Des Moines, you’ll find a little town called Perry, Iowa. Located just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the state capital, Perry isn’t your normal Iowa small town. Their city website proudly proclaims that ‘Culture and Community Thrive Here,’ which is perhaps little more than an eerie message in light of the recent shooting at Perry High School, the only public high school in town.  

Early in the morning on January 4th, senior Dylan Butler walked into school like he would on any other day. But minutes later, he opened fire in the building, injuring seven and killing a sixth grader and himself.

This highlights a bigger issue. Butler didn’t just decide to shoot up a school with no warning. Just before opening fire, he posted a TikTok on an account which has since been banned or deleted. Additionally, he’d been talking to friends on Discord, which the social site has confirmed. Butler had been planning this and talking about it. Throughout our country, mass shootings, especially in schools, have and continue to be a deadly epidemic. And we’re special–but not in a good way. 

Just in 2023, there were 346 school shootings across the country, with the greatest number of incidents in California, Ohio, and Texas. Among American teenagers, gun violence is the leading cause of death. But this painful statistic hasn’t always been true. Since 2017, the number of in-school gun violence incidents have skyrocketed, pausing only for a year and a half during the height of the pandemic. This exponential increase is not normal–in other countries, school shootings are almost unheard of, and when they do happen, preventative measures are taken to ensure they don’t happen again.

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This needs to stop.

There is no excuse for a situation in which a sixth grade student and a high school principal are killed. Politicians can share their grief however many times they’d like, but if actions aren’t taken, incidents like these will continue until every student in the country is too scared to go to school every day. Even as it is now, we live in fear of violence in a school that should be a safe haven for education.

As students, we should be promised a safe learning environment. If we continue this horrifying pattern of tragedy after tragedy, there will be no more schools for us to go to, and an exponentially growing number of kids and teachers to mourn.

Governor Kim Reynolds shared her sorrow after the shooting at Perry High School, but also claimed that additional gun laws would have done nothing to stop the incident. In the summer of 2022, Governor Reynolds pledged to use $100 million of COVID relief money for school following the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas. But only $20.6 million has been spent, and yet, two mass shootings have occurred in Iowa high schools.

The change has to start now, fresh after the catastrophe last month, or else we will never have successful gun reforms.

— Lily Rantanen

The solution should not just be to increase defenses for schools. Sending kids to school with clear backpacks and walking them through metal detectors before entering the building are not reasonable measures. We shouldn’t ban lockers and backpacks just because we’re worried about students sneaking in handguns.

The change has to come from a higher level. Iowa’s gun laws are some of the weakest in the country. In 2021, amidst the height of the pandemic, the legislature eliminated both the requirement to have a permit to purchase a gun and the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed weapon. 

Despite what Governor Reynolds says about Iowa gun laws, it’s clear that we can do better. The change has to start now, fresh after the catastrophe last month, or else we will never have successful gun reforms.

As a community, we’re still hurting from the grief of the Perry High School shooting. But as a state, and as a nation, we have to do better.

This story was originally published on The Little Hawk on February 20, 2024.