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Will Southwestern Iowa Self-Defense Shooting Become Part of Gun Control Debate?

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A self-defense case in southwestern Iowa may end up as an argument in the debate about gun control.

Rodney Long, an escapee from the Clarinda Correctional Facility, shot a sheriff's deputy during an escape. He broke into the home of a couple of a Taylor County couple late Monday night and held them hostage for four hours. One of the homeowners managed to get a shotgun and killed the intruder.

That act of self-defense came up Wednesday in Cedar Rapids during a rally by the group "Organizing for Action," an anti-gun violence group push for stricter gun controls. And members say it's very likely they'll hear about what happened near Bedford from gun rights activists.

Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman took part in the Gun Violence Prevention Rally at May's Island because he's made getting guns off the streets a police priority in Cedar Rapids in 2013. The chief told a crowd of about 25 people that officers have seized 55 weapons from criminals who shouldn't have them just this year. But the chief said what happened in Taylor County earlier this week only proves that legal, responsible gun ownership has a place too.

"That farmer did what he had to do and for all I know he is a responsible gun owner. There's millions of responsible gun owners in the country," Chief Jerman said.

Scott Pennebaker, a longtime member of the pro-gun Iowa Firearms Coalition, attended the rally to hear what the other side had to say. Pennebaker said he doubted anyone on either side of the gun control issue would fault the homeowners in southwest Iowa.

"It's definitely responsible gun ownership. I don't know how you can say it any other way," Pennebaker said.

Those wanting stricter gun controls frequently cite school shootings in places like Newtown, Connecticut as a reason to ban high capacity magazines or assault-type rifles or do background checks on any gun purchase, including private sales. While some at the rally conceded the shooting of a home-invading criminal was a "pure" example of self-defense they also don't see it as a reason to derail all gun control efforts.

John Bryant, a member of Organizing for Action, said "if I was in that position with a criminal trying to get me I would be glad to have a gun. But in the big picture, the odds are that gun at home is going to kill me or my kids."

Another member, Cate Barker, added "the bill (the group is backing) before the House of Representatives is not designed to take guns out of the hands of responsible citizens. It's designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals."

Still, both sides seemed to agree on one thing. What happened in southwest Iowa near Bedford is likely to become a part of the gun control debate.

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