Iowa students to stage walkout to state capitol in wake of school shooting: ‘Need to utilize this energy’

After a fatal shooting at Perry High School in Iowa, students plan to leave class and march to state Capitol Monday to protest the lawmakers’ alleged inaction against gun violence.

March For Our Lives Iowa issued the call to students just hours after police reported that a Perry High School junior shot and killed a sixth-grader and injured seven other students at the school Thursday. March For Our Lives Iowa began organizing the walkout when students expressed their frustration about the school shooting.

The shooting was a very personal experience for many of us, Akshara Eswar said to the Des Moines Register (part of the USA TODAY Network). “People are angry. “They’re constantly thinking about it.”

Eswar continued: “That is all we can say and we must use this energy to let our legislators understand that we’re not satisfied with the current state of gun laws in Iowa.”


Around noon on Monday, students in Des Moines and surrounding areas, including Bettendorf, Johnston Waukee, West Des Moines and Waukee, are expected to leave class.

The group intends to send a letter – which outlines its legislative priorities – to Iowa Governor. Eswar, who is a senior at Johnston High School, told Eswar that Kim Reynolds was the person she would be delivering a letter to. Monday is also the first day in the 2024 legislative sessions.

Gun safety advocates have been calling for stricter gun legislation since mass shootings began in the United States. Thursday’s shooting is no exception. In just a few hours, gun control groups and Democratic legislators condemned the shooting.

In 2023, the number of school shootings reached a new record in the U.S. for the second consecutive year. According to federal data, there were 188 shootings that resulted in casualties at both public and private schools during the school year 2021-22.

We are afraid to go to school

March for Our Lives has a number of legislative priorities. One is a law requiring people to report stolen or lost firearms. Another would prohibit people who are at risk to harm themselves or others, from buying or possessing guns. Once they receive help, the ban will be lifted.

Eswar stated, “I would say that our greatest hope or agenda item is that legislators realize that we are afraid to go to school.”

Eswar stated that Iowa legislators have not given priority to laws which directly affect the safety of people and children in the state. Eswar said that the focus of Iowa lawmakers has been on laws which ban books depicting sexual acts from school, require school administrators to inform parents when a student requests to use a different name or pronouns, and prohibit transgender girls from playing sports.

She said, “They do all this to protect children.” But the truth is that every day is a risk. We never know what will happen to us when we go to school every day. It’s unfair that we live in fear.

Perry High School shooting kills 11-year old boy

Perry, a rural community of about 8,000 people located 40 miles northwest from Des Moines, was stunned by the shooting on Thursday. Authorities and school officials claim that a teen student, armed with both a pump action shotgun and small caliber handgun, opened fire on Perry High School Thursday morning, just before classes began on the first day after winter break.

Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation spokeswoman Mitch Mortvedt stated that the shooting began in the cafeteria where students of several grades were having breakfast. Then, the shooting spilled out into the hallway.

Ahmir Jolliff died, Perry High School principal Dan Marburger, two school staff and four teenagers suffered minor to significant injuries. Dylan Butler, a 17-year-old student who died from an apparent self inflicted gunshot, was identified as the shooter.

Ahmir was in the sixth grade at Perry Middle School. Ahmir’s parents wrote in an obituary in the Des Moines Register that he left behind a legacy of love, compassion and advocacy for those who are in need.

The family asked those who said their goodbyes to share in his “unwavering resolve to make the world brighter” and to continue this legacy. His funeral will take place at Perry’s St. Patrick Catholic Church one week after the tragedy.