A gun control rally and voter registration drive was held on the west steps of the Iowa Statehouse today, part of a nationwide observance of the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings.
A youth group known as Iowa Students United organized the rally of several hundred metro area students.
Seventeen-year old Tyler Juffernbruch of Norwalk said Iowa Students United came together after the February mass shooting at a Florida high school.
He said the shootings “broke a ceiling into activism.”
“Showing that students can get involved and they can make a difference with their voice,” Juffernbruch said.
Students said they hope to influence the legislature to pass what they call common sense gun laws. That includes universal background checks and banning assault weapons.
“It is an American value to have the second amendment,” Juffernbruch said. “But we realize that the constitution is a living document and when the constitution was created there were not assault-style rifles or mass murdering weapons.”
Students from East High School and Roosevelt High School in Des Moines participated, along with students from Urbandale, Indianola and Norwalk.
They chanted “enough is enough” and waved placards reading “Books not Bullets” and “A Well-Regulated Militia Doesn’t Kill Children.”
Several advocacy groups including the League of Women Voters, Moms Demand Action, NextGen Iowa, and Progress Iowa assisted with on-site voter registration.
“Legislators are listening to us because we are the next generation that will be coming up to the polls and voting and if they want to keep their jobs they better listen to us,” Juffernbruch said.
Gun control is the main focus for Iowa Students United, but that could change in the future.
“As an organization we do expect to expand outwards to other issues that do affect central Iowa students,” Juffernbruch said.