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D.C. Dispatch: Iowa Republicans propose alternatives to gun control

Gun Control
Posted at 1:26 PM, Jun 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-11 14:26:21-04

All three of Iowa’s Republican congressional representatives announced their support this week for alternative legislation to address school violence after voting against a gun-control package passed by the U.S. House.

 Rep. Randy Feenstra, a Republican, helped introduce the Secure Every School and Protect our Nation’s Children Act or STOP II Act. 

“As a father of four, my heart breaks for the families who have lost loved ones to senseless acts of violence. No child should feel unsafe at school and no parent should fear for their child’s safety when they drop them off at school,” Feenstra said in a press release.

The original STOP Act was signed into law in 2018 and the new proposal would fund $1 billion for mental health guidance counselors and $1 billion for school resource officers. The addition also allocates $5 billion for the “hardening” of schools by implementing active shooter training and training for student intervention to prevent school violence from occurring. Funding for the projects would come from Bryne Justice and Assistance Grant and the Hiring Community Oriented Police Services programs. 

“We have to enforce the laws on the books and stop guns from getting into the wrong hands without infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens,” Rep. Ashley Hinson said in a press release. “That’s why I am a co-sponsor of the STOP II Act, and why I will continue working on efforts to bolster school safety, better train law enforcement, and help deliver critical mental health resources to our communities.” 

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a co-sponsor on the STOP II Act, also proposed legislation to allow states to use dollars from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds toward school security measures. According to Miller-Meeks’ Communication Director Will Kiley, “both bills are fundamentally the same and aimed to achieve the same goal.”

The Securing Our Schools Act defines school safety measures as evidence-based strategies or programs to prevent violence. This includes heightening camera surveillance as well as training for law enforcement, school personnel and students. Salaries for former veterans and law enforcement officers to serve as school resource officers would be covered by the legislation.

Funds can also be directed to construct fences or walls to create single-point entries on school property. The legislation would allow schools to fund the development of a threat assessment team and an anonymous reporting system for potential threats.

“We need to give schools more resources to keep our students safe. There are currently billions of dollars sitting unused in states around the country,” Miller-Meeks said in a press release. “Clarifying states have the flexibility to use relief money to increase security is a common-sense step that would see immediate results.”

In a 224-202 vote, the House passed legislation Wednesday to ban anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing semiautomatic rifles and limiting magazine gun sales to hold no more than 15 rounds of ammunition. It also heightens requirements for storing guns in homes. Rep. Cindy Axne, a Democrat, was the only representative from Iowa to support the legislation.

“We’ve seen too many horrors unfold in recent weeks – from children and teachers shot and killed at an elementary school in Texas to two young women tragically gunned down in a church parking lot here in Iowa,” Axne said in a press release. “These types of shootings have been unaddressed for far too long and it is past time for Congress to act on common-sense gun legislation.”

Biden nominates district judge backed by Iowa’s senators

President Joe Biden nominated Judge Stephen Locher as a district judge for the Southern District of Iowa.

Iowa Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst had recommended Locher, who currently serves as a magistrate judge in the district. His nomination unanimously passed a vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee and now awaits a confirmation vote before the full Senate.

“With such a glowing record to stand on, there’s no doubt why Judge Locher received support from both of his home-state senators,” Grassley said during the committee meeting Thursday. “Judge Locher is an exceptional nominee who is well-qualified to serve as a federal district court judge. It’s my pleasure to support his nomination.”

Ernst talks fertilizer prices

Ernst joined farmers, industry professionals and lawmakers Friday in Vinton to discuss the impacts of record-high fertilizer prices due to conflicts between Ukraine and Russia.

Raw materials that make up the fertilizer market are up 30% since the start of 2022. This increase also follows an 80% increase in 2021, according to the World Bank Blogs. Ernst also joined Grassley on sending a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai requesting affordable and accessible fertilizer inputs for farmers and produces on May 31.

“As fertilizer costs skyrocket to record levels, topping 14-year highs in some cases, Iowa farmers are facing a crisis,” Ernst said according to a press release. “Today’s roundtable — bringing together farmers, the heads of some of Iowa’s top agriculture groups, industry professionals, and federal and state policymakers — was an engaging discussion to better understand the causes of these historic costs and to ultimately work toward solutions.”

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: info@iowacapitaldispatch.com. Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

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