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Students Protest Gun Violence At Brownells Gun Store

Iowa students across the state protested gun violence Friday, to mark 19 years since the Columbine shooting in Colorado. One of the demonstrations was at a gun store owned by the president of the NRA.

High schoolers from Iowa City made the hour drive to Grinnell to stage what’s called a "die-in" at the Brownells firearms retail store. They lay down in front of the main entrance to the building with their arms linked and their eyes closed to symbolize victims of gun violence. Customers continued with their shopping, walking past the students without commenting. 

While other students across the state held demonstrations at their schools and at the state capitol, City High Sophomore Esti Brady said she came to Brownells because she believes gun retailers have a role to play in preventing gun violence. 

"I think that gun suppliers need to be held responsible for the impact their products produce in the world," Brady said. “I think that they need to be part of the discussion and part of the solution to the problem that we have here.”

The group initially lay silently for six minutes and 20 seconds, the amount of time the shooting lasted at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February. But they kept at it for a few more minutes, until officers from the Grinnell Police Department arrived and asked the students to leave, at the prompting of Brownells staff. 

West High Senior Ameen Taha figured the staff and customers of Brownells found the demonstration offensive. But he said he wanted to get their attention.

“What we were doing is really showing them how much this matters to us," Taha said. "Their daily job is capable of killing people...atleast that's how I felt."

Brownells markets itself as "the world’s largest supplier of firearms accessories and gunsmithing tools". NRA President Pete Brownell owns the company. Representatives for Brownells could not be reached for comment.

Corrected on April 25, 2018. A previous version of this story incorrectly gave Esti Brady's first name as Esther.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter