D.C. Dispatch: Iowa lawmakers respond to Ames’ deadly shooting

Cornerstone Church
Posted at 4:18 PM, Jun 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-04 17:18:32-04

Members of Iowa’s congressional delegation responded with grief and prayers after a shooting Thursday evening killed three people outside a Christian ministry gathering in Ames.

Also this week, GOP lawmakers addressed the use of tax dollars for abortion and the infant formula shortage.

In Ames on Thursday evening, Eden Montang, 22, and Vivian Flores, 21, were shot and killed by Johnathan Whitlatch of Boone with a 9mm pistol, according to the Story County Sheriff’s Office. After the attack, Whitlatch fatally shot himself. Authorities said the incident apparently stemmed from a domestic dispute.

Whitlatch had been arrested and charged with harassment and impersonating a public official on May 31, according to law enforcement officials. That incident was also related to a domestic dispute, according to police.

Both of the female victims were students at Iowa State University. The shooting happened outside of Cornerstone Church off U.S. 30.

Rep. Randy Feenstra represents Iowa’s 4th District where the shooting took place. 

“I’m heartbroken to see the tragic loss of life in Ames tonight,” Feenstra said in a tweetshortly after the shooting. “Our churches and the faithful who fill them should never be targets of violence. Lynette and I are praying for the victims, their families, and the entire Ames community.”

Law enforcement said the attack appeared to be a domestic situation and there was no indication that Whitlatch tried to enter the church. The incident follows 233 mass shootings in 2022.

Rep. Cindy Axne demanded action.

“My prayers are with the victims of tonight’s shooting, their families, and the people of Ames,”  Axne, D-3rd District, said in a tweet. “Enough is enough. I am working with my colleagues in Congress to pass federal gun safety measures. The time to act is now.”

Other legislators responded:

Rep. Ashley Hinson

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks: “I and all of Iowa grieve over this horrendous and senseless act of violence and mourn the loss of innocent lives. We will support these families and the community of Ames while we learn the details of this tragic crime.” 

Sen. Chuck Grassley:

Sen. Joni Ernst: “I’m closely following the situation in Ames. I’m grateful for our first responders and am praying for all involved and the entire Cornerstone Church community.”

How is Congress responding to gun violence?

After shootings in Texas and New York that left collectively over 20 people dead, President Joe Biden called on Congress Thursday night to find some middle ground on gun control legislation.

No tax dollars for abortion

Grassley joined Senate Republicans in a letter to Schumer pledging to block any legislation that allows tax dollars to fund abortions. Republicans sent a similar message to Senate leadership in February 2021. 

Democrats attempted last month to codify abortion rights established in the 50-year-old court ruling Roe v. Wade but failed due to the Republican filibuster. The Supreme Court’s conservative majority has indicated a willingness to overturn the precedent in a leaked opinion. 

“We write to express our unwavering support for the Hyde Amendment and all other longstanding pro-life protections,” the letter stated. “For more than 45 years, the Hyde Amendment has ensured that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortions, saving the lives of nearly 2.5 million preborn children… the Hyde Amendment is supported by both a substantial majority of the American public and a bipartisan majority of sitting United States Senators, and was most recently signed into law by President Biden in Public Law 117-103.” 

Formula shortage

Feenstra introduced legislation to require the Food and Drug Administration to establish and update Congress on clear standards by which it regulates infant formula in the United States. 

After life-threatening bacteria was found in formula production from an Abbott Laboratories factory in Michigan, which produced 15% of the nation’s baby formula, Congress has been working to pass legislation to restock store shelves and examine the regulation process. Miller-Meeks also joined in cosponsoring the bill. 

​​“Iowa’s families have been severely impacted by the domestic formula shortage. The ongoing shortage has highlighted severe issues with our supply chain and oversight of the FDA,” Miller-Meeks said in a press release.

Miller-Meeks and the other Republicans in the Iowa delegation voted May 18 against a proposal approved by the House providing $28 million to the FDA to address the formula shortage.

“Writing a blank check to the FDA, the same agency that created this crisis, will not solve the underlying issues at hand. During the current formula shortage, we need to be working to increase access to formula to support families across the country,” Miller-Meeks said in a statement. “Improving standards to regulate imported formula will ensure that we can import necessary goods to shore up domestic supply to prevent future crisis and keep American families healthy and safe.”

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

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