The second session of the 90th Iowa General Assembly began Jan. 8 at the State Capitol, just four days after a school shooting in Perry that left an 11-year-old dead and seven other students and staff injured, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. The alleged shooter, a 17-year-old Perry High School student, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The Dispatch also reported that on the Legislature’s opening day “more than 300 people demonstrated at the Capitol calling for gun laws aimed at preventing mass shootings.”
The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC), the public policy voice for Iowa’s bishops, shared a message from the Diocese of Des Moines in response to the school shooting in Perry:
“We call on all people of good will to pause and pray for the children, the parents, the educators, the first responders, the medical staff and the entire community of Perry. May God’s Spirit be with those directly affected by today’s tragic event and with all of us on this day of deep anguish and grief.”
Five years ago, Iowa’s bishops released a letter on legislation related to guns, which is on the ICC website (iowacatholicconference.org). “This issue is timely because the regulation of guns has been an ongoing subject of legislation here in Iowa during the past several years,” the bishops said in their December 2018 letter. “This letter is not intended to be a comprehensive review of the Church’s moral teaching on violence and weapons, but simply to offer a few suggestions in the spirit of helpfulness and love for the communities we serve.” Their suggestions at that time:
- We ask legislators to consider the passage of a law providing for Gun Violence Restraining Orders. A recent study seems to indicate these orders may at least help reduce firearm-related suicides. The orders would allow persons in a close relationship with a gun owner to seek an order that allows authorities to temporarily take guns away when there is clear evidence that the gun owner is a danger to themselves or others.
- The role of mental illness and addictions cannot be discounted as a factor in gun violence. We support ongoing efforts to improve our state’s health care systems, including mental health care and help for opioid addiction. Many times, a person committing violence was a victim of violence in the past.
- The state should consider requiring a background check anytime a weapon is sold.
- We oppose legislation such as House Joint Resolution 2009 that would restrict the state’s ability to regulate weapons in the future. (In 2022, Iowans voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that states “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed … Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny” — Iowa Capital Dispatch, Nov. 8, 2022).
- We support the repeal of the recently passed “Stand Your Ground” law. Finally, we encourage prayer for the safety and protection of all. Lord, make haste to help us!
Condition of the State
Gov. Kim Reynolds planned to present her “Condition of the State” message to the Legislature with live coverage from Iowa PBS the evening of Jan. 9. (The Messenger went to press before the speech was to air, during a major winter storm.) The Condition of the Judiciary and Condition of the National Guard speeches were also scheduled for this week, the ICC reported.
On Monday, Jan. 15, Iowans will gather by party preference at precinct sites to elect delegates to the 99 county conventions. You can learn more about the process on the ICC website (iowacatholiconference.org). “While the ICC doesn’t support or oppose candidates, we encourage your participation,” said Tom Chapman, executive director of the ICC. “The Iowa caucuses are designed as neighborhood meetings that welcome the participation of not only the most politically active, but everyday citizens. By your participation, you can support a vision for society that reflects the life and dignity of the human person.”
Iowa coalition opposes assisted suicide
The ICC is a part of the Iowa Coalition for Ethical Care (iowacoalitionfor ethicalcare.org), which opposes the legalization of assisted suicide. The coalition sent a letter to legislators last month in opposition to House File 533. In the letter, the coalition says, “In short, this attitudinal shift shows how the passage of a law in the name of increasing patient choice can actually have the harmful effect of decreasing healthcare professionals’ respect for the life of every patient.”
The ICC invites you to participate in a live Zoom webinar Jan. 18 at 7 p.m., featuring Chapman, who will report on the legislative session and the ICC’s advocacy efforts (sign up at http://tinyurl.com/2yxcu5b4).