Cedar Rapids Police Chief, Citizens Call for Stricter Gun Laws

By Lee Hermiston, Reporter

Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman speaks during a a Gun Violence Prevention Rally Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 on May's Island across from the Linn County Courthouse in Cedar Rapids. Organizers of the event called on attendees to contact their legislators and demand stricter gun laws such as bans on semi-automatic rifles and high capacity magazines. (Brian Ray/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Thirteen months removed from the Aurora, Colo. movie theater shooting and eight months after the Newtown, Conn. shooting, residents in Cedar Rapids renewed the call to prevent gun violence through strengthening gun laws.

“We want to raise awareness in Cedar Rapids…gun violence is a real issue,” said Cate Barker.

Barker was one of the organizers of the Gun Violence Prevention Rally. The rally, hosted by the Cedar Rapids chapter of Organizing for Action, was hosted on Mays Island Wednesday morning. The event drew about 30 spectators.

The event – which featured comments from Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman, Diversity Focus executive director Chad Simmons and Wellington Heights neighborhood association president Justin Wasson – called on attendees to contact their legislators and demand stricter gun laws such as bans on semi-automatic rifles and high capacity magazines.

“As long as our gun laws are as lax as they are, we all live in Newtown” Barker said.

Echoing comments he has made earlier this year, Jerman told the crowd that reducing gun violence in the city is his number one priority this year. To that end, Cedar Rapids police officers have taken 55 guns off the street this year and, as of July 31, reported shootings are down from year to year.

There have been 28 reported shooting so far in 2013, down from 35 during the same time period in 2012.

“That is still way too many,” Jerman said.

Jerman noted the success of the Federal Safe Streets Task Force, which announced earlier this summer it has indicted 10 people on federal weapons charges and is seeking an 11th suspect.

On the other hand, the city’s proposed gun buyback program has not gained the steam Jerman envisioned. Since the department began to solicit donations earlier this summer to support the program, only $1,000 has been donated.

“That’s enough to buy 10 guns,” Jerman said. “I want to do 10 times that.”

Jerman said he is not opposed to gun ownership, but supports background checks for all gun sales, making gun trafficking a federal crime, restricting gun magazines to 10 rounds and reinstituting a ban on assault rifles.

“We need to step up enforcement, enforcement of laws we already have in the books,” he said.

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