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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell College, presidential candidates weigh in on Perry, Iowa school shooting

Nick El Hajj
Grinnell lowered flags in mourning as Perry, another small Iowan community, grieves a school shooting that claimed the life of a sixth-grader and injured five others.

Flags lowered to half-staff throughout Grinnell as Perry, another small Iowa community an hour and a half away, mourns the aftermath of a school shooting that claimed the life of a sixth-grader this Thursday.

The shooting occurred at Perry High School on what was supposed to be a peaceful return to classes following the winter break. Reports indicate that the suspected shooter, identified as 17-year-old Dylan Butler, a student at the school, opened fire with a pump-action shotgun and a small-caliber handgun before dying of what investigators believe was a self-inflicted wound. In addition to the two fatalities, five others were wounded, including Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger.

“On behalf of Grinnell College, our deepest sympathy goes out to the Perry community. We share their heartbreak and recognize that their community will be irreparably impacted by today’s school shooting,” wrote Anne Harris, president of Grinnell College, in an email to the S&B. Perry, with its 8,000 residents, is only slightly smaller than Grinnell’s 9,500, and lies about 40 miles northwest of Iowa’s capital, Des Moines.

We share their heartbreak and recognize that their community will be irreparably impacted.

— Anne Harris

Along with the about 150 officers that responded to the scene, Perry’s tragedy swiftly prompted reactions from a broader audience, including presidential hopefuls campaigning in Iowa ahead of the presidential caucuses.

Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, who was scheduled to campaign in Perry shortly after the shooting, canceled his event to hold a “prayer and open discussion” with area residents. “We have a psychological sickness at the core of our country right now,” he wrote in response to the shootings on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. During a later campaign stop in Mason City, he proposed a policy for every school in the United States to have three armed guards.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, in an interview with the Des Moines Register and NBC News, advocated against new federal restrictions on firearms. “The federal government is probably not going to be leading that effort, I think it is more of a local and state issue, but we’ve shown how it’s done in Florida,” he said.

Since Desantis became governor, Florida, which was rocked by the infamous Parkland high school shooting in 2018, has spent more than $1 billion on school security.

Nikki Haley, former U.N. ambassador, also commented on the incident, expressing her condolences on X. “No parent, student or teacher should have to wake up and face news about a school shooting,” she wrote. Following a school shooting in Nashville in March of 2023, Haley suggested that schools should have only one point of entry and that each school should have a law enforcement officer stationed on campus at all times. She also advocated for the wider use of metal detectors in schools, noting that they are already prevalent in many places where children go.

No parent, student or teacher should have to wake up and face news about a school shooting.

— Nikki Haley

Former President Donald Trump ​​​​did not make a public statement regarding the Perry High School shooting incident​​. Trump is in northwest Iowa this Friday campaigning before the upcoming Iowa Caucuses.

“Our hearts are broken by this senseless tragedy,” wrote Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds on X. She also addressed the incident in a news conference later on Thursday.


Under Reynold’s term, Iowa has relaxed its gun laws, eliminating the requirement for a permit to purchase a handgun or to carry a firearm in public. However, the state maintains a mandatory background check for individuals who wish to purchase a handgun without a permit. All major Republican presidential candidates for the 2024 election did not make substantial policy proposals in light of the shooting, and they maintained a unified stance advocating for the protection and reinforcement of gun ownership rights.

The high school and middle school in Perry — part of the 1,785-student Perry Community School District — are connected, and at the time of the shooting, students from the middle school were at the high school for a breakfast program. The shooting in Perry comes nearly a year after two students were killed at Starts Right Here, an educational mentorship program in downtown Des Moines.

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About the Contributor
Nick El Hajj, Editor in Chief
Nick El Hajj, hailing from Beirut, Lebanon, is a fourth-year political science and economics major. In his free time, Nick enjoys delving into a good book, embarking on scenic drives and indulging in random documentaries. You’ll frequently find Nick waking up way too early to enjoy a peaceful morning of fishing at Arbor Lake.
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