In April of 2013, members at First Presbyterian Church of Iowa City viewed the documentary, Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence, as part of an adult education study. Moved by the film, members of the church’s peace and justice committee began discussing how they could initiate a conversation about gun violence within the wider community.
To accomplish this, they formed a committee called “Ripples 2 Waves,” after a Mother Teresa quote: “I alone cannot change the world but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” President Obama’s remarks on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre also inspired their movement: “We can’t lose sight of the fact that real change won’t come from Washington. It will come the way it’s always come – from you. From the American people.” In building this grassroots movement, Ripples 2 Waves soon became an interfaith coalition, drawing members from Presbyterian, Methodist, Jewish, and agnostic backgrounds. They knew that a meaningful conversation would require having many voices at the table.
One founding member, Martha Schut, noted, “In the beginning I too thought, let’s just get rid of assault weapons and high capacity magazines.” However, through the committee’s research and discussions with community members, it became clear that responsible gun owners weren’t the enemy. “I would recommend having responsible gun owners as part of the process,” Schut stated. After all, Ripples 2 Waves wasn’t seeking to eliminate the Second Amendment, but to find middle ground. For this reason, they adopted the slogan, “A Community Effort for Sensible Gun Use.”
Ripples 2 Waves decided to use Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence to start the conversation. They planned a free community screening and panel discussion at the Coralville Performing Arts Center and devised a promotional plan that included newspaper ads, letters to the editor, invitations to partner organizations and community leaders, a website (ripples2waves.org), and interviews with local television and radio stations. They invited panelists representing sectors of the community that deal with gun violence on a regular basis:
• Kristie Doser, Executive Director, Domestic Violence Intervention Program
• Joe Bolkcom, Iowa State Senator, 4th District
• Jim Claypool, Attorney/gun owner
• Bernie Frank, Co-pastor of Gospel Explosion Ministry/gun violence victim
• Joan McMillan, Retired substance abuse counselor/gun owner,
• Lonny Pulkrabek, Johnson County Sheriff
• Stephen Trefz, Executive Director, Community Mental Health Mid-Eastern Iowa
• Mike Willey, MD, UIHC Orthopedic Surgeon.
On a cold January night, over 265 people turned out to view the film, hear the panelist, and connect with local organizations. The evening’s program was filmed and shown on the local public television channel several times the following week. Since then, the committee has received a strong, positive reaction from the community. Ripples 2 Waves members believe the event was a success, but also know that their work has just begun. To follow their progress, visit ripples2waves.org.