CORALVILLE, Iowa - More than a year since a shooter killed 26 people in Newtown, Connecticut, more than 100 people took on the emotions and the facts of gun violence at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday night.
The shooting in December 2012 is what prompted June Braverman to serve on the Ripples to Waves committee as a co-chair. Ripples to Waves is an ecumenical group that helped bring "Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence" to the center, both for a screening and a discussion on gun violence, gun rights and finding a middle ground between people on opposite sides of a contentious issue.
"As we keep saying, God forbid if it could happen anywhere and it has happened here in Iowa City," said Braverman before the screening. "If you read the paper, you see how many gun assaults or attempted robberies. It's a scary time.
Filmmaker and director David Barnhart wanted to go inside the statistics throughout his 54-minute documentary."
"My main concern is that people have become numb and desensitized to the gun violence that we're seeing everyday," said Barnhart. "Our main goal with this film was to tell the human story – to look at what is the impact of one shooting and how one shooting can affect hundreds of people. The families, the ER surgeons, the ATF officials, the chaplains who have to counsel the families. What is the ripple effect of gun violence?"
From a law enforcement perspective, Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek also talked on relaxed standards to obtain firearms as he and his deputies see this on the front lines.
"More and more Iowans with lengthy criminal records, mental illness or sex offenders are able to get guns in Iowa," said Pulkrabek. "We're still in Iowa and we see more than we care to in the bigger cities. Iowa is still a safe state and we never hope we have a school shooting. The good thing is the schools are taking a proactive approach if things come up.
Throughout the documentary and the discussion afterward, a focus on avoiding extreme political positions or assigning blame was an undercurrent as people took on this complex but intense issue, searching for a workable solution at some point in the future.
"There are recreational gun users who were perfectly legal, buy legal guns, don't bother anybody are legal and we need to include everybody in this particular venture," said Braverman. "We're trying to find some common ground to find some standards of decency that we can live by."