Vigil held for victims of mass shootings


Emily Berch/Iowa State Daily

State Sen. Herman Quirmbach speaks to participants in the mass shootings vigil about his efforts to mandate background checks before gun purchases in Iowa and its failure in the Republican-controlled Legislature. The vigil, held outside Rep. Steve King’s office on Aug. 7, honored the victims of recent shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

Jake Webster

Constituents held a candlelight vigil for victims of mass shootings Wednesday night outside Rep. Steve King’s Ames office.

Story County Democrats Chair Maddie Anderson read through a list of names of those who were killed in Saturday and Sunday’s mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, respectively.

Anderson encouraged those at the vigil to write letters to the three people who represent Ames in Congress.

“I would like anybody who is willing to write a brief statement to our elected representative, Steve King [and] our senators, Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley,” Anderson said. “Quite honestly, I don’t know how much good that will do — we’ve been writing these letters; we’ve been calling — what it’s going to take is voting these people out of office.”

Grassley was asked by a Vice News reporter whether he would support a new ban on assault weapons, and repeatedly said he did not vote a ban in 2013, but did not answer how he would vote now.

The overwhelming majority of Americans support universal background checks for gun sales, with a 2017 Gallup poll finding 96% of Americans favor “requiring background checks for all gun purchases.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in February which would do just that, though the Republican controlled U.S. Senate has declined to bring the legislation up for a floor vote.

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said he introduced legislation “to do comprehensive background checks for all sales [of guns] … in the Republican-controlled Legislature, it went nowhere this year.”

Courtney Vengrin, director of curricular assessment at Iowa State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said she was a student at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, when a gunman killed 33 people at the university.

“It should’ve stopped there,” Vengrin said, her voice breaking at times. “It should have stopped far before Virginia Tech, and it’s absolutely surreal to watch your community and your hometown on the news when something like that happens.

“We’re fortunate here, that we have not experienced that yet, but I’m starting to feel like it’s only a matter of time.”

The frequency with which mass shootings in the United States occurs has left many in a permanent state of caution in public crowds.

The New York Daily News reports a motorcycle backfiring late Tuesday near Times Square caused people in the busy tourist hotspot to stampede in a panic, mistaking the sound for gunfire, and the resulting injuries left six hospitalized.

Jacob Ludwig, Iowa State Student Government senator and junior in economics, said the shootings in the past week were a reminder “this shouldn’t be normal.” He added Iowans should “expect more” from their elected officials.

“It’s really going to depend on the people and how much people don’t let representatives in the Congress forget about what happened, because if we let up, and we stop talking to them about it, they’re not going to feel the pressure to act,” Ludwig said.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Vengrin’s title as adjunct assistant professor of veterinary clinical sciences. The article has been updated to reflect the actual title. The Daily regrets this error.