Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday that Iowa should focus on its education system, rather than changing gun laws, following a March 7 shooting at East High School in Des Moines that killed one teen and wounded two others. .
“I think the tragedy is that our system, our education system, is letting these kids down,” he said. “They should have been in school. We should find resources to help them stay there and help them get an education and a life where they can take care of themselves and their families.”
Reynolds, a Republican, made her comments to reporters after some Democratic lawmakers, pastors and gun safety advocates called Tuesday to toughen Iowa’s gun laws. Reynolds responded Wednesday that Iowa already has gun laws. and that the weapons used in the shooting had not been legally accessed.
The shooting, which occurred outside East High School in Des Moines, killed a 15-year-old boy, José López-Pérez, and left two girls, ages 16 and 18, in critical condition. Lopez-Perez was not a student at the school, but the two girls were, police said.
►Plus: Family of East High shooting victim remembers 15-year-old Jose Lopez-Perez as larger than life
Police arrested six teenagers ages 14 to 17 in connection with the incident on charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder.
Sgt. Paul Parizek, a spokesman for the Des Moines Police Department, said Lopez-Perez was the target of the shooting and the two girls were not.
►Plus: Six teens acted ‘in concert’ to shoot a 15-year-old boy outside Des Moines’ East High, criminal complaints allege
Reynolds, who had previously issued a statement the day after the shooting in support of the families involved, said Wednesday that the situation was “heartbreaking.”
“I think that’s where we need to focus: Let’s figure out how we get these kids to school,” Reynolds said. “Give them the education they need and prepare them to be successful, not to go to jail or a life of crime. And that is where we will continue to focus. We have laws on the books. right now for the guns.”
Reynolds’ comments Wednesday drew swift criticism from House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, a Windsor Heights Democrat, who said Reynolds is “using this tragedy to vilify teachers and drive Iowans apart.” “.
“Even in the face of a tragic school shooting, Governor Reynolds refuses to stop playing politics,” Konfrst said. “Your recent comments of him blaming public schools for the high school shooting last week are reprehensible.”
Steven Schappaugh, principal of Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, tweeted that the governor is “blaming the education system for a tragedy.”
“Your party controls the funding and resources of the state for the education system… so do you blame your party?” he wrote.
On Tuesday, a group of Iowa Democrats joined some advocates for tougher gun laws in urging legislation, such as creating universal background checks, after the incident. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, also issued a statement last week supporting the family of the victims and denouncing gun violence.