Gubernatorial candidate Deidre DeJear calls for gun reform in the wake of Ames shooting

By: - June 10, 2022 2:40 pm

Deidre DeJear talked about her campaign for governor with journalists on Iowa Press June 10, 2022. (Screenshots courtesy of Iowa PBS)

Deidre DeJear said there were no empty seats in Cornerstone Church last Sunday.

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate attended a service in the Ames church days after an armed man shot and killed two women, then himself, in the church parking lot. The community was still reeling from the senseless violence, she said, but came together to heal.

“No one saw that coming. And at the time at which I came, some people were still in shock that this really happened,” she said. “But everybody was at church that day.”

The Ames shooting, as well as ones in places like Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school, are why DeJear says gun reform is a central campaign issue in the 2022 race for governor. This November, she faces incumbent Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who seeks re-election to a second full term.

DeJear discussed her plans to reduce gun violence in Iowa during a recording of “Iowa Press,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Friday on Iowa PBS. If elected, DeJear said, she would work to require permits for purchasing firearms, and licenses for carrying. She said she also wants to implement a minimum age requirement of 21 to purchase assault rifles.

DeJear emphasized this doesn’t mean getting rid of guns in Iowa.

“The time has come for states to figure it out so that we can keep people safe,” DeJear told the Iowa Capital Dispatch. “Keep your guns and keep people safe. Those things are possible.”

Cornerstone Church is where The Salt Company meets every Thursday for worship and is located on the outskirts of Ames, Iowa.

Reynolds condemned the shooting last Friday, speaking to reporters before a Grinnell campaign event.

“At the beginning, we weren’t sure what was happening, but it was a targeted attack,” Reynolds said. “It appears that possibly, again, mental health has played a role in that, and we’re still learning more as they dig into some of the information.”

She said there was not “one single answer.” But Reynolds talked about specific steps she wants to take in keeping Iowans safe, like working with worship centers and schools to create safety plans, as well as bettering Iowa’s mental health programs.

Johnathan Lee Whitlatch, 33, of Boone, had recently broken up with victim Eden Mariah Montang, 22. She and 21-year-old Vivian Renee Flores, both Iowa State University students, were at the church for a Thursday night worship service with Cornerstone’s university ministry.

In Sunday’s sermon, the Rev. Mark Vance said the Cornerstone congregation is mourning, but resilient.

“Death does not own this place,” he told churchgoers. “It never has, and it never will.”

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. Robin has experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald, in addition to working on multimedia projects, newsletters and visualizations. They were a political reporter for the Des Moines Register covering the Iowa caucuses leading up to the 2020 presidential election, assisting with the Register's Iowa Poll, and reporting on Iowa's 4th District elections.

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