When I interviewed Meredith Gibson for my piece on Iowa’s ‘toddler militia‘, I quickly realized that no one could tell her story better than she could. She’s bright, articulate, insightful and one heck of a fighter! The following is Meredith’s personal account of what she and her family have gone through for the past three years in her family’s fight to change Iowa’s gun laws:
It began three years ago when my daddy took my sister to the gun range down the road. They came home earlier than normal that day. I was playing basketball and my sister Natalie had tears in her eyes and was crying. When my mom had asked her what was wrong she had said, “They said I can’t shoot a hand gun because I’m under 14.” I was like “WHAT?” But when my dad researched the law behind this rule, I really became upset.
According to the law in Iowa, no child under the age of 14 can handle a handgun – even with our parent’s supervision.
See, it has always been a dream of mine to become a competitive shooter. My dad was working with us on gun safety and technique. It was fun being able to spend a extra little one on one time with my dad. And one law in Iowa threatened my dream and my chances of succeeding in shooting sports.
I asked my dad what can we do to change this law. He told me we had to go to the capital and talk to senators and representatives to get it changed. So I said, “Ok, let’s get it done!” My dad arranged for us to visit the capital and we even found support from our local Representative Jake Highfill.
We worked really hard; talking to Senators, Representatives – pretty much anybody who would listen! We made videos, appeared on local news programs, and we were really excited to have found a lot of people who supported our side.
That was until the bill died. I was crushed – I think I cried for 3 days. My dad said we could keep on fighting for it to change if we wanted to, and that’s exactly what we did. We went right on talking with as many different people as we could find.
After that first year in this battle, we connected with the Iowa FireArms Coalition who stepped up to help the fight. They have really done a lot for us. We thought for sure with Jake, Matt Windschitl, and IFC behind us that second year, that it was bound to pass. We fought harder and continued to ask for Representatives and Senators support. We frequently spoke with Senator Sodders, who had said he supported the legislation to change this law, but would tell us a joke or try to do something silly to distract us from the discussion.
It turns out that he was just playing politics, and ultimately, Senator Sauders only helped to kill the bill again. We were so close – I thought we had all the support we needed to get this legislation passed, but Sauders just didn’t let it come up.
I love playing basketball too, and it’s no different than if they were to bench me, telling me I could no longer dribble a ball because of some law. Shooting is my sport, so when my dad asked us again if we wanted to continue fighting, I said “Absolutely.” I refused to give up.
The 3rd year – yes you heard me right, the 3rd year of this fight – we fought even harder. Fed up and tired of being lied to, all we were focused on was getting this law passed so we could go back and not only compete in 3-gun competitions, but practice, too! I’m already behind on my pistol skills since other kids can practice in their home state and I can’t. If we want to practice handguns, we have to drive another state. I know my mom and dad wish they could do it all the time, but they can’t.
During the third year, we testified again and was left confused after one Representative said we were trying to create a “toddler militia”. When my dad told me what it was I had to laugh! I mean seriously a 12 and 10-year-old trying to create a toddler militia, really? If I can shoot an AR-15 and a 12 gage shot gun, I think we can agree I am definitely NOT a toddler.
When our bill finally passed the subcommittee, the full committee, and then the House, it made it back into Senator Sodder’s hands. We didn’t stop there. We showed up at the Capital every Wednesday trying to talk to him, but he would literally run the other way when he saw us! My little sister and I actually blocked his path one time, we were so determined to talk with him!
But ultimately, he continued to run away from Iowa’s girls and boys who wish to shoot handguns with their parents when he handed the legislation over to two anti-gun Senators. Once again, it died.
This time, we weren’t as sad. We had become used to the lies and runaround from politicians, but know we can get this bill passed one way or another.
We’ve decided now is the time to fight harder than ever. The IFC and my family went to the NRA Annual Meetings were we did a lot of interviews and I mean A LOT! We walked and talked and talked to anyone who would listen to us in Louisville for 3 whole days. Our feet were hurting and we were tired, but we wanted to make sure our story was heard.
It is so cool to see how many amazing people actually support us, and are willing to stand up and fight with us. I was even excited when we had a couple of people ask for my autograph! We want our voices to be heard this time, so our game plan has changed. Voting is coming up in November and we want to make sure a new Senator is elected in Sodder’s district – one that will actually stand up for our Second Amendment rights.
This summer I am giving up my summer plans and I’m going door knocking with my sister to get the word out. (Well, most of my summer plans – Mom and Dad said I still have to enjoy being a kid and have some fun, too!) Some people still don’t know what’s going on here in Iowa. It’s my mission to make sure everyone knows.
To be honest, I’m actually excited for this year because this time, it’s not just our little group. This year we have 1,000’s of supporters and IFC has set up a funding page to help us get this law changed. But we still need all the help we can get.
I know that most people think my parents are forcing this down my throat, but it just isn’t true. They always tell me if we don’t want to do this any more just say the word and we’re done. The truth is I don’t want to stop fighting to make this right. Yes, it gets exhausting, but I’m not only fighting for my right to shoot a pistol so I can compete, but also so that one day, I can possibly receive a scholarship from it. I’m fighting not only for myself, but all the kids in Iowa that not only want to compete in 3 gun, but who just want to shoot handguns with their parents and can’t. I’m fighting because it’s my parents right to decide when I am ready to shoot, not the government’s. My parents are raising me, they know me better and what’s right for me. My parents stand by my side and fight with me. My only question is who will stand and fight with us?
Meredith Gibson is a 12-year-old Junior Competitive Shooter from Iowa. She enjoys shooting sports, politics and educating others on gun safety. Please follow her Fan Page on Facebook to keep up with all her events and encourage this great grassroots gunny gal!