OSAGE | While the issue of tax cuts and what the lack of available funds in places such as infrastructure and development continue to be hot topics of discussion, at the second Mitchell County Legislative Forum held on Saturday, Feb. 24, in Osage, another gravely important topic was discussed - the issue of gun control and regulation.
The discussion came in the wake of the most recent school shooting in Florida where 17 lives were lost as well as the threat of a mass shooting at the Riceville Schools.
In addition, the AR-15, the weapon used in the Florida mass shooting, has proven to also be the weapon of choice in the past several mass shootings, was an issue of concern for many in attendance.
Several stated they believed the weapon, sold legally as a semi-automatic rifle, was too easily accessible, as is the bump kit that allows it to be converted to fully automatic. Some stated there was no legal reason to have the weapon at all and its use should be relegated to the nation’s military.
“We live in a society that has changed considerably since I was ten,” Milt Owen said. “I owned my first gun at 10. But we are more liberal than conservative now, I don’t even think supervisors can limit people from bringing firearms in the courthouse these days. What I’m wondering is if moving the AR-15 into a different category is something you can support?”
The question sparked Senator Waylon Brown (R-St. Ansgar), a self-professed “gun guy,” to admit recent events have really brought the issue home for him.
“It is our obligation to ensure that we are doing the right things,” Brown said. “One question to address is how to we keep them from ending up on people’s hands through a different means? This year, I gave my son his first rifle. I figure there are two ways to go about things: I can teach him to fear a gun, so he runs away whenever he sees one, or I can teach him the right way to use it.”
While some in attendance stated they believed a lack of education about guns contributed greatly to the issue of their misuse, there were also reminders of the mental health issues.
Mental health issues have been associated with several of the shooters and the lack of mental health beds across the nation, where law enforcement is left struggling to deal with individuals who need more help than officers are trained to give.
“In our society, everything today is so fast,” said Representative Jane Bloomingdale (R-Northwood). “I think we can slow down the background checks and have them take longer before they are put through.”
While neither Brown nor Bloomingdale had heard anything new from leadership regarding new legislation to deal with firearms issues being introduced into the house and senate, both spoke of the importance of continuing to have conversations to address the increasing issues of mass shootings across the nation.
“The Riceville incident brought back the reality for me,” Brown said. “I’ve thought, well, we live in rural Iowa, those types of things don’t happen here, But hearing about the threat to the Riceville School was a gut check moment for me that these things can happen in rural Iowa, so I got on the phone, and I started asking those important conversations and getting conversations going.”