'Do something!' Iowa crowd boos at senator's response to a teacher describing live shooter drills

Every August, Congress gets a month off for a recess period. Elected officials make their way back home for state fairs, rotary luncheons, and the occasional town hall. That’s where Sen. Joni Ernst found herself over the weekend, taking questions from constituents in Iowa.

After a string of mass shootings from California to Brooklyn and everywhere in between, the crowd understandably wanted to know what Sen. Joni Ernst would be doing to press for common-sense gun law reforms when she returns to Washington. One attendee, a teacher, stood up and described the trauma she has to deal with on a regular basis as her school goes through active shooter drills. These realistic shooter drills involve the sounds of gunshots blasting. Sometimes the halls are filled with “victims” and this teacher says she even has to role-play meeting with parents at a “reunification” center after a tragic event like a mass shooting. 

Listen as this teacher, with her voice shaking, describes these active shooter drills and asks, “When can I plan to get back to trainings that simply teach children to read and write?” Listen as the audience boos and shouts, “Do something!” 

It’s incredible that she notes the lack of counselors, therapists, and more in our society—and in our schools in particular. Because Sen. Joni Ernst, along with her Republican colleagues in Iowa’s legislature and every Republican-led state legislature nationwide, have dramatically reduced the number of mental health professionals in our nation’s schools. Never mind that most of the mass shooters are not even in school, because Republicans have consistently found ways to reduce access to mental health services for both children and adults alike.  

But, of course Sen. Joni Ernst stuck with the Republican party line that it is mental illness that is the key driver of these mass shootings, something that is statistically completely false. Shannon Watts, the founder of gun law reform group Moms Demand, consistently provides data that shows otherwise, as you can seen in the tweets and graphics blow. In short, people with mental illness commit less than 5% of violent crimes, and only 11% of mass shooters have exhibited mental illness. As Watts has repeatedly noted, the problem isn’t mental illness, video games, single parents, or any other boogeyman Republicans want to blame instead of the real culprit: easy access to guns. 

Make no mistake: This is inflicting long-term harm on our teachers and students. These drills in and of themselves are a form of terror. It’s time for Sen. Ernst to quit sending thoughts and prayers and blaming everyone and everything except the obvious. In the words of the audience in Iowa, DO SOMETHING!