What do we know about the school shooting in Iowa?

Republicans have reacted with prayers following the Perry school shooting but no proposals to change gun laws.

Members of the Casebolt family attend a vigil, after a shooting at Perry High School, in Perry, Iowa, US.
A vigil took place after the shooting at Perry Middle and High School in Iowa [Sergio Flores/Reuters]

A sixth grade student has been killed and four others, including three students and a school administrator, have been injured in a school shooting in Iowa. Only one victim has been identified by name.

Here are the details:

When did the shooting happen?

The shooting took place at Perry Middle and High School, in Perry, Iowa at 7:30am (13:30 GMT) on Thursday before the first day of classes had even begun. The shooting triggered an immediate police response as emergency vehicles and armed units rushed to the school.

Responding authorities also found a “pretty rudimentary” improvised explosive device in the school, which they disabled.

Among those injured was a school administrator, who was later identified by his alma mater as Principal Dan Marburger. He is the only victim of the shooting who has been identified by name.

Who was the shooter in Iowa?

Authorities identified the shooter, who was found dead at the scene, as Dylan Butler, 17, but have so far provided no information about a possible motive.

Authorities said Butler had a pump-action shotgun and a small-calibre handgun.

Butler is believed to have shot himself. “Officers immediately attempted to locate the source of the threat and quickly found what appeared to be the shooter with a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation told reporters

Butler’s mother, alongside two of his friends, told The Associated Press that he was a quiet person who had been bullied for years.

Where in Iowa did the shooting take place?

Perry is about 65km (40 miles) northwest of Des Moines, on the edge of the state capital’s metropolitan area.

It is home to a relatively diverse population of about 8,000 people living in low-slung, single-storey homes spread among trees now shorn of their leaves by winter. Census figures show 31 percent of Perry’s residents are Hispanic. This compares with fewer than 7 percent across the state.

The high school and middle school are connected, sitting on the east edge of the town.

How have US Republicans reacted to the Iowa shooting?

This shooting comes a week before the Iowa caucuses, a series of local meetings held throughout the state during which Republicans usually indicate their preference for a presidential nominee to represent the party in the November presidential election.

The incident sparked responses and prayers from Republican candidates but no policy proposals have emerged. Guns are likely to once again be a hot topic of debate during this election cycle, with little legislative action expected.

Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy posted a video on X of him meeting two parents whose daughter was at Perry’s nearby elementary school that day.

“Our purpose here was to pray and reflect, to make sure something like this never happens again,” Ramaswamy said.

Republican candidate Nikki Haley also extended her sympathies on X. “My heart aches for the victims of Perry, Iowa and the entire community,” she wrote.

Gun violence in the US

This is the fifth recorded incident of gun violence in the United States in 2024, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-governmental organisation that defines a mass shooting as one which results in four or more people wounded or killed.

Gun violence is ubiquitous in the US – with more guns than people in the country. Attempts to curb the spread are often met with stiff political resistance. Last year there were a total of 656 shootings. News outlet Education Week said that 37 school shootings in 2023 resulted in injuries or deaths.

The day before the Iowa shooting, a 15-year-old allegedly shot a man outside a high school in Virginia. No one was identified in the case and it was not clear if either were students.

According to a database maintained by news outlet Education Week, this makes the Perry incident the second school shooting so far this year, bringing the number of recorded shootings to 183 since 2018.

Since July 2021, Iowa has not required gun owners to hold a permit before they can buy a handgun or carry a firearm in public, although it does require a background check on anyone buying a handgun without a permit.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies