Ross Wilburn (file photo)

The Iowa Democratic Party’s chairman says Republicans at the statehouse have put Iowa gun laws on a downward spiral — leading to the plan to have 10 Spirit Lake School staff carry guns on school grounds.

Spirit Lake officials announced this week that staff with permits for concealed weapons would be trained to quickly respond to a shooting in Spirit Lake schools, however teachers will not have guns in classrooms. Iowa Democratic Party chairman Ross Wilburn is also a state representative from Ames and he has voted against allowing guns in Iowa schools.

“Eliminating the Iowa permit to carry requirements, allowing guns in schools and also making it easy for domestic abusers and felons to buy handguns — it’s a continued spiral downward,” Wilburn said Thursday. “It continues to stoke fear.”

Senator Herman Quirmbach of Ames is the top Democrat on the Senate Education Committee. He joined Wilburn in the Iowa Democratic Party’s weekly online news conference.

“Turning our schools into armed camps is just the absolute wrong way,” Quirmbach said. “The psychological effect on our kids, I think, is devastating.”

Deidre DeJear, the Democratic
candidate for governor, was in Spirit Lake Wednesday and DeJear told reporters she had talked with people who were “devastated” by the district’s decision.

“There are some common sense measures that we can put into place at a statewide level so that folks aren’t scared that they’re sending their kids to schools with guns in them,” DeJear said. “We see a school trying to be preventative, but in essence it’s challenging for them to be preventative that this current governor is creating.”

Last year, Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law that lets Iowans buy and carry handguns without a permit. DeJear, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, has said she’d reinstate the permit process. The move would mean background checks would be required for private gun sales in Iowa.

Spirit Lake school officials say the program to have armed staff on school grounds should serve as a deterrent to anyone contemplating a school shooting. The Iowa Firearms Coalition says Iowa children “are worth protecting” and the group is urging other Iowa districts to adopt Spirit Lake’s plan.