Shooting survivors call for Iowans to reject pro-gun amendment

By: - October 19, 2022 5:00 pm

Two survivors of mass shootings are speaking out against a proposed constitutional amendment protecting gun rights. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Two survivors of shootings encouraged Iowans Wednesday to vote against a proposed constitutional amendment restricting infringement on gun ownership and use.

Iowans are now able to vote early or by mail in the Nov. 8 elections. On the ballot is the proposed “Keep and Bear Arms Amendment,” which raises the legal standard to justify restrictions on firearms.

If a simple majority of Iowa voters vote “yes” for the measure, the state constitution will be amended. As voters start weighing in, the Iowans for Responsible Gun Laws, a coalition opposing the amendment held a news conference in Cedar Rapids asking Iowans to vote “no.”

Two people who had survived shootings, Leah Schneider and Kayla Panos-Blackcloud, joined the coalition encouraging voters to reject the amendment.

Leah Schneider spoke Oct, 19, 2022, at a Iowans for Responsible Gun Laws event in Cedar Rapids, opposing a constitutional amendment on gun rights. (Screenshot from Iowans for Responsible Gun Laws Facebook livestream)

Leah Schneider, a Cedar Rapids resident, described her multiple experiences with gun violence. She survived the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas in 2017, where a gunman shot over 1,000 bullets, killing 60 people and injuring over 400. Two years later, she was at a bar in Cedar Rapids where a man opened fire. There were no reported victims.

Schneider said she is against the proposed amendment because she does not want anyone else to experience what she has.

“I go into every day with a caution that was not there before,” Schneider said. “Every place I go, I am aware of my exits. And I have internally gone through an escape plan.”

The constitutional amendment would subject laws restricting the sale, use and possession of firearms to a legal standard known as “strict scrutiny.” Any measure limiting access to guns will have have to fit a “compelling governmental interest” or could be struck down in court if the constitutional amendment passes.

The proposed amendment would stop “any choice we have going forward to help create safer, law abiding communities” in Iowa, Schneider said. She said she supports safe and legal gun ownership, but that setting this legal standard would prevent the state from passing measures to protect domestic abuse victims and people struggling with suicidal thoughts.

“We are already covered by the Second Amendment in the United States Constitution,” she said. “We do not need additional measures protecting (gun rights). This measure is threatening any possibility of making our community safer.”

Kayla Panos-Blackcloud survived a 2019 shooting at Iowa Smoke Shop in Cedar Rapids. Panos-Blackcloud was one of the four people shot during the incident, two of whom died from their injuries.

She asked, “… how many of us have to die before lawmakers take control of our safety and protection of children, victims and the community in Iowa?”

Republican advocates for the measure say it would stop federal or judicial attempts to limit gun rights.

The language of Public Measure One, the constitutional amendment that Iowans will vote on, reads: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.