Emma Gonzalez and Parkland survivors will be in Iowa discussing gun control
Emma González, a well-known survivor of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, will be among those calling for stricter gun control policies in Sioux City on Wednesday. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and other schools involved with March for Our Lives launched their Road to Change tour Friday in Chicago. The tour is aimed at calling attention to gun violence and demanding policy changes. Along with stops in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota, the tour will take students to Sioux City, Cedar Rapids and Marion, Iowa.
More: What to know about March for Our Lives bus tour stops in Iowa
Their political movement is demanding universal, comprehensive background checks, better database technology for tracking guns, a ban on high-capacity magazines, a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles and public funding “to research the gun violence epidemic in America.”
A majority of Iowans believe increased controls on gun purchases won’t reduce mass shootings, according to a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll published in December.
Fifty-six percent of Iowa adults say additional controls won’t lead to fewer mass shootings. Forty percent believe stricter controls would reduce them.
Four percent aren’t sure.
The trip to Sioux City is no accident — students will challenge U.S. Rep. Steve King’s stance on guns in his own backyard. They say politicians like him are responsible for allowing gun violence.
Even in places where the group meets dissent, Deitsch says activists often find plenty of common ground. And the conversations have been elevated and sincere, even in times of disagreement.
“I think protest is one of the most American things you can do, but it’s also important not to just protest and yell at people,” he said. “It’s about that kind of middle ground. Most people in this country are in the middle and caught in the messaging or certain labels. If we just had this conversation, we could get a lot accomplished.”
The bus tour chose to visit cities plagued by gun violence, whether in inner cities or through high-profile mass shootings, Deitsch said. The group’s website says it will go to “places where the NRA has bought and paid for politicians who refuse to take simple steps to save our lives.”
“We mostly picked places where we can have that tough conversation — a lot of places where we might not always be welcomed right away,” Deitsch said. “We just picked places where we can drive on a bus and talk to people and perpetuate this conversation about saving lives.”
Students won’t be shy about calling out King, the Republican from Kiron who represents Sioux City and the wider 4th Congressional District. It’s the state’s most heavily Republican congressional district and covers 39 counties in northwest and north-central Iowa. His office did not respond to the Register’s request for comment.
“All we’re trying to do is extend the conversation to this community because he’s not doing enough to save lives,” Deitsch said. “Like most of our representatives, he’s on the long list of people that aren’t doing enough to save our kids from dying.”
King has already had public conflicts with the Parkland students, González in particular.
In March, the congressman’s campaign Facebook page posted a picture of González as she spoke at a rally in Washington. In the picture, the teen wore a Cuban flag patch.
“This is how you look when you claim Cuban heritage yet don’t speak Spanish and ignore the fact that your ancestors fled the island when the dictatorship turned Cuba into a prison camp, after removing all weapons from its citizens; hence their right to self defense,” the post read.
And other Parkland students have set their sights on King as a prime example of politicians who need to be voted out.
“You prove why so many … are done with politicians like you,” David Hogg, a well-known Parkland activist, tweeted in March.
Another student, Jaclyn Corin, said they planned to “vote you out, Steve.”
King has been safely re-elected for years and political prognosticators don’t yet believe this year will be different.
Aside from their political agenda, Deitsch said students are looking forward to exploring new parts of the country. He said he’s never been to Kansas, Nebraska or Iowa — all stops on the tour.
“Parkland’s a bubble — and our bubble’s been popped. So we want to be in touch with people in other parts of the country,” he said. “But the message is the same — the goal is the same: The whole idea is that we’re going to come together to affect change.”
The bus hauling students across the country has somewhat of a revolving door, as students jump on and off at different stops along the way, said Matt Deitsch, a youth organizer and strategist with March for Our Lives. But González plans to be on hand for events in Sioux City.
“Emma is really, really excited to be in Sioux City. We’re all kind of rotating in and out,” Deitsch told the Des Moines Register on Monday. “She’s not with us today, but she’ll be with us later.”
A shooter killed 17 people on Feb. 14 at Stoneman Douglas High School. Within 24 hours of the rampage, the Parkland students captured the attention of the nation as they not only grieved in public, but began calling out lawmakers and inserting themselves into the center of the gun-control movement.