Gov. Reynolds doesn’t have a plan to address school shootings, but thinks students and the federal government could do more

Gov. Kim Reynolds — photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor of Iowa

At her weekly press conference on Monday, Gov. Kim Reynolds said the federal government needs “to take the responsibility to do some things” to prevent future mass school shootings like the one in Parkland, Florida last week. She also called on “parents and students, school faculty and staff and members of the community to be especially vigilant for signs of potential violence.”

Asked what she would say to Iowans who were wondering what she was doing to prevent mass shootings, Reynolds replied, “I’m sure we all feel like we’re doing everything we can.”

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last Wednesday, which resulted in 17 deaths, dominated Reynold’s press conference. The governor began her prepared remarks by saying, “I just want to start this morning by offering my sympathy and prayers to those that were impacted by last week’s school shooting in Florida.”

That sort of statement, when it isn’t accompanied by action, was denounced by the Iowa City students who walked out of school on Monday to protest the lack of gun control reform in the wake of school shootings.

Reynold’s prepared remarks focused on the state’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to promote the idea of “see something, say something.” In a press release, the governor’s office described the partnership as “a new campaign to educate Iowans on the importance of reporting suspicious activity.” But during her press conference, the governor mentioned that Gov. Branstad also promoted a “see something, say something” program in partnership with DHS two years ago.

The partnership announced on Monday wasn’t created in response to last week’s mass shooting in Florida, but Reynold’s made an effort to include school shootings in the promotion of it.

In light of last week’s shooting, we’re asking parents and students, school faculty and staff and members of the community to be especially vigilant for signs of potential violence. Notify school authorities, local law enforcement or call 911, if it’s an emergency.

But in Iowa, engaging in suspicious activity or even displaying signs of mental illness would not result in authorities removing a person’s guns — or restricting that person’s ability to buy more guns.

Five states — California, Washington, Oregon, Indiana and Connecticut — have so-called “red flag” laws that allow authorities to temporarily confiscate a person’s guns under certain circumstances. Those laws are triggered if a judge determines a person is mentally ill, has a substance abuse problem, has made a series of escalating threats of violence or has committed domestic violence.

Reynolds was asked at the press conference whether Iowa should adopt a red-flag law. The governor replied,

Well, first of all, I just don’t think that there’s one solution. So, as we take a look at making sure that we’re doing everything we can to keep people safe there a host of… we have to look at it in a holistic manner. And so, that means taking a look at ‘see something, say something,’ That means being familiar with our surroundings. That means making sure that we’re addressing mental health concerns.

After briefly turning her attention to a program to increase training in mental health issues for medical students at Des Moines University, Reynold cited other factors that need to be considered before the state takes any new action on preventing mass shootings.

We need to take a look at the breakdown of the families. And we need to take a look at the violence our young people are exposed to, when you think about — you know — the violence on TV and the video games that our kids have access to. It’s a combination of all of that case [sic], so I think we need to continue the conversations and work with all of the stakeholders and do everything we can to put safeguards in place.

In response to questions on whether there are gun controls laws she would report, Reynolds said she “refuse[d] to speculate” about that, but said,

I am a proud Second Amendment supporter. It’s a part of our constitution. But I think there’s things that we can — the federal government has a role to play in this. They need to look at what they can do. Strengthening background checks. A big piece of this discussion lies with them. They need to take the responsibility to do some things. As a state, we’ll continue to take a look and review.

Reynolds had just started to explain whether she supported the idea of arming teachers and school personnel to prevent school shootings, when her press conference came to a sudden end.


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“I’m willing to have a conversation about all of those,” Reynolds began, before an alarm sounded. The capitol building was then evacuated.

It turned out to be a false alarm.

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