KWWL & Police Break Iowa Law with “Gun Test” Story

Gun Test - KWWL

 

The Gun Test

KWWL, Iowa’s News Channel 7, and the Waterloo Police Department recently broke Iowa law when they knowingly allowed eight pre-school and kindergarten students access to a pistol for a story. The illegal activity was part of heavily promoted and highly edited sweeps story KWWL titled “The Gun Test” which aired the night of February 11th.

Gun Test KWWL

KWWL’s “hidden” gun from the Gun Test.

The Gun Test story featured KWWL anchor Amanda Goodman and Lieutenant Aaron McClelland of the Waterloo Police Department. The two placed an unloaded pistol in a KWWL conference room next to a pile of toys. Before letting the kids in the room Lt. McClelland repeatedly told the kid’s moms the gun unloaded but that “it looks and feels, because it is, an actual weapon.” Then eight unsupervised children were ushered into the conference room to play. All the while Goodman, McClelland and the children’s parents watched from another room.

Everything was recorded and edited heavily into a seven minute sweeps story designed to drum up ratings for KWWL. In the story the gun is placed between the arm of a couch and a cushion, right next to a pile of toys. The kids find the gun in a matter of seconds and begin to play with it. Passing it around. Pointing it at one another. The scene is designed to be dramatic, and it is. But it is also illegal under Iowa law.

724.22

Iowa Code 724.22 subsection 5 clearly states:

"A parent or guardian or spouse who is twenty-one years of age
 or older, of a person fourteen years of age but less than twenty-one
 may allow the person to possess a pistol or revolver or the
 ammunition therefor for any lawful purpose while under the direct
 supervision of the parent or guardian..."

Here's a screen capture of KWWL's story The Gun Test.

Here’s a screen capture of KWWL’s story The Gun Test.

Goodman makes it perfectly clear early in the story that this group of children are pre-school and kindergarten aged, far from the 14-year-old minimum age required by Iowa law. This means Goodman, Lt. McClelland, and every single one of the mom’s featured in this story are committing a crime. Each is committing a serious misdemeanor punishable by up one year imprisonment and an $625 fine. If they’re caught again, they risk felony charges.

The law that was broken in this story directly impacts lives of thousands of Iowa families who want nothing more than to be free to teach their kids to respect firearms without fear of committing a criminal act. These are families like the Gibsons of Johnston, Iowa. Some of you may remember the Gibson’s story. In April 2014 Nathan Gibson took his two young daughters to an Iowa shooting range. They were practicing with a Walther P22 pistol when a rangemaster informed them they were breaking the law and needed to leave. The Gibsons were in absolute disbelief, as far as they knew they were doing everything right. After doing some digging they discovered a little known Iowa law (724.22) that barred anyone under the age of 14 from possessing a pistol or revolver, even under direct adult supervision. Ever since, the Gibson family has been fighting to change Iowa law.

“The reason kids are dying the parents don’t teach their kids gun safety, so a kid picks up a handgun, they don’t know what it is or what to do with it,” Meredith Gibson recently told an Iowa House Judiciary Subcommittee.

Setup to fail

Another view of KWWL Gun Test. Can you really call a gun "hidden" if you can plainly see it from across the room? And can you really be surprised that kids find it if you "hide" it inches away from a pile of toys?

Another view of the KWWL Gun Test. Can you really call a gun “hidden” if you can plainly see it from across the room? And can you really be surprised that kids quickly find it if you “hide” the gun inches away from a pile of toys?

KWWL’s Gun Test Story was billed as an “experiment.” Goodman’s intentions with this experiment may have been noble, but this test was deliberately flawed from the start and designed to maximize fear. This experiment was laid out so that these kids would quickly find the gun and let their natural curiosity take over so the news station could trump up the fear factor. Showing unsupervised kids with a gun and close up cutaways of distraught, teary eyed moms.

Make no mistake, there was an agenda at play here. These kids were setup to fail.

“It took just seconds. A room full of toys – a hidden gun – and curious children… it took just seconds.” Says Goodman. It took just seconds because the gun was never hidden in the first place. It was sitting there, in plain sight, only halfway stuffed into a couch cushion, so poorly hidden that it can be seen from across the room in the opening shot of the story.

Not only was the gun not hidden, it was placed right next to a pile of toys. The only pile of toys in the entire room. The rest of the conference room was completely void of any toys. Except for the couch, which conveniently had a gun nearly touching a pile of stuffed animals, frisbees and balls. There’s no question why “it took just seconds.”

Educated kids = safer kids

Of the eight children in the KWWL Gun Test only six actually laid their hands on the gun. The group was a mix of kids from a variety of families. Some of the families are gun owners, some are not. However it must be noted that the two children who didn’t pick up the gun come from gun owning families whose parents had educated them about gun safety. This is encouraging, but there’s still work to be done. The Iowa Firearms Coalition is long time advocate of firearms safety. As demonstrated by KWWL’s Gun Test talking about guns and educating kids is a simple gun safety measure that clearly pays huge dividends. Unfortunately as KWWL now knows, Iowa law handicaps parents ability to remove their children’s natural curiosity.

The Eddie Eagle program is designed to specifically teach kids what to do if they find a gun.

The Eddie Eagle program is designed to specifically teach kids what to do if they find a gun. STOP. Don’t Touch. Run Away. Tell a Grown-up.

The National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle program addresses scenarios such as the one laid out in KWWL’s Gun Test head on. For those of you not familiar the Eddie Eagle program is specifically tailored to teach young kids what to do should they ever come across a gun. The message is simple, if you see a gun:

1) STOP!

2) Don’t Touch

3) Run Away

4) Tell A Grown-up

Whether you’re a gun owner or not, teaching your kids this message is invaluable and the Iowa Firearms Coalition highly encourages it. Reviewing this message on a regular basis is critical. It won’t be successful if it’s just a one time thing. Teaching kids to respect firearms, and addressing their natural curiosity are two of the very best things that can be done to keep kids safe.

Child Safety & Parental Rights Act

KWWL, it’s great that you want to talk about gun safety. We’re in agreement, everyone, everywhere to talk to their kids about what to do if they find a gun. But please, don’t stack the deck against a group of small children for dramatic effect during a ratings period. Instead of setting them up to fail, why not set them up for success? At the very least you could have brought in an additional group of kids and prepped them using the Eddie Eagle program then aired the results of that experiment as well.

And finally, please, before putting unsupervised kids in a room with a gun, even if it is unloaded, make sure you know the law. We all know that ignorance of the law is no excuse. That’s especially true if you’re breaking the law in front of tens of thousands of impressionable viewers.

The Iowa Firearms Coalition is leading the charge to repeal Iowa’s ban on supervised youth shooting and gun safety training. House File 2042, the Youth Safety and Parental Rights Act would give parents the freedom to educate their kids on proper gun safety at a young age. True gun safety can’t be legislated. Our kids must be educated. Removing a child’s natural curiosity and teaching them to stop, don’t touch, leave, and tell a grown up is the only way to keep them safe in every situation. “Curiosity is killing our kids” says Goodman, quite simply we want Iowa families to have every option available to remove that curiosity.

The Iowa Firearms Coalition is fighting for this repeal so people like Ms. Goodman, and Lieutenant McClelland don’t have to worry about committing a criminal act when teaching kids about gun safety. But most importantly we’re fighting for change because the safety of tens of thousands of families and children in Iowa should never be put in jeopardy because a misguided and little known law makes teaching kids to shoot a crime.


Iowa Firearms Coalition is an entirely volunteer, grassroots, Second Amendment advocacy group. Responsible for bringing uniformity to Iowa’s Permit to Carry process, IFC’s members work to protect and enhance Second Amendment rights in Iowa. An affiliate of the National Rifle Association, the IFC actively seeks to foster and promote the shooting sports. Sign up for our email list for the latest on Second Amendment issues in Iowa. You can support our work by becoming a member, or making a donation. 

 

Our readers said:

Write us your thoughts about this post. Be kind & Play nice.
  1. Albert Leeman says:

    Both of these people should be fired & prosecuted for breaking the law. But I’m sure it will be covered up like all police screw ups are.

  2. Ryan says:

    The rest of the section you edited states it’s acceptable with parental permission for the purpose of instruction. I feel comfortable that that is what the officer provided.

    • AJ says:

      Ryan,

      With all due respect please review the actual verbiage of the law. 724.22 Subsection 4 “…or while the person receives instruction in the proper use thereof from an instructor who is twenty-one years of age or older.”

      I have the opinion that what KWWL and the officer did was in fact a violation of state law.

      First, The KWWL segment was not providing instruction regarding the proper use. Just putting a gun in a room full of kids without any prior discussions to the children is not the intent of proper instruction.

      Second I am guessing the officer is not a certified instructor from any recognized organization. I tried to double check this fact but the Waterloo Police Bio of the officer has been pulled. The reason I make this statement, is within the first 2 minutes I saw the officer make numerous safety violations (sweeping the muzzle across people prior to demonstrating the firearm is not loaded).

      Third, the fact that the gun is inoperable does not change the designation as a firearm. There are numerous cases in other states that have confirmed this (example: Michigan, People v Dorling on June 13, 2013). The only way to remove the designation of a firearm is making the receiver permanently inoperable. If that was not the case, anybody would be able to buy any gun fully intact minus the barrel (as that was the part made inoperable per the news segment) and not go through the background check.

      There is a way to conduct this news segment without a violation of state law. The officer could have used a training devise or possibly a BB Gun that is inoperable. There are models out there that are nearly indistinguishable form real firearms.

      I finally state the someone/ILA consider a “writ of mandamus.” I am not an attorney but this one seems obvious to me. There needs to be a forcing function to ensure the press and more importantly the police enforce the state laws they are sworn to protect. Reciprocally if I conducted this type of “test” with my own children I will bet anybody that the prosecutors office would not turn a blind eye.

      • Travis says:

        First of all there was no law broken and for people to continue talking about is disturbing. As far as the story goes it was meant to spark conversation between parents and kids to educate and hopefully combat accidents with our children. I find it almost humorous that grown adults are taking this so literally and cant understand why it was done. This has nothing to do with gun control and if u think it’s scare tactics that is a positive when comes to saving our kids. We scare them when talking about drugs, crossing the street without looking both ways, talking to strangers ect. every day! Take a moment, think about the message and support the effort to save our children. If all of this crazy talk is more important than our children’s safety in your mind I am truly sorry for the person u are.

      • msg51 says:

        Travis, I taught my kids how to cross the street, not to drink and about gun safety when they were old enough to understand and became curious and it was long before they were 14. I never once had an issue with them handling a gun when I was not present. I did not use scare tactics. I taught them. Education is more valuable then ignorance. Whether you own a gun or not educate your kids, you never know when they will come in contact with one.

    • Jay says:

      Where was the “instruction” for the kids….

  3. Jenny says:

    The gun was sautered. It was not an actively working weapon. Seriously…

  4. Mike says:

    Being in the law enforcement business, the police officer should have know or at least checked into Iowa law pertaining to the experiment they were doing. In the world we live in today, I don’t think it was a smart idea to introduce pre-school children to fireams.

  5. Scott Benson says:

    Your reaction is a real stretch. The police and parents were supervising which the law says is legal. What is your point other than to insight more division with false information.

    • Christopher Romero says:

      Uhmmm. The specific law CITED multiple times states that even WITH parental or instructor supervision it is illegal for children under 14 to handle a pistol.

      Try reading….

  6. Chris says:

    The gun was NOT FUNCTIONAL, on top of no ammunition, and no magazine. I fail to see how this law comes into play. Granted yes this “experiment” was designed to exploit the fear factor, but these kids are barely old enough to understand the concept of death, guns, and real vs toy guns. If you actually watch the video, the best part is Ron Steeles response at the very end. The only two kids that didn’t pick up the gun were the two whose parents owned guns and taught them. I would also be curious on how this “experiment” would play out with slightly older kids.

    • Tom says:

      READ the law and you’ll understand how the law comes into play. It does not mention anything re functionality of the gun, ammunition or magazine

  7. Jhon Q Public says:

    I was TAUGHT at a VERY YOUNG AGE GUN SAFETY AND TREAT A GUN AS IF IT WAS ALWAYS LOADED!!! PARENTS SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES FOR NOT TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN FOR IT COULD SAVE THEIR LIFE OR GOING TO PRISON SOMEDAY!!!

  8. AJ says:

    With all due respect please review the actual verbiage of the law. 724.22 Subsection 4 “…or while the person receives instruction in the proper use thereof from an instructor who is twenty-one years of age or older.”

    I have the opinion that what KWWL and the officer did was in fact a violation of state law.

    First, The KWWL segment was not providing instruction regarding the proper use. Just putting a gun in a room full of kids without any prior discussions to the children is not the intent of proper instruction.

    Second I am guessing the officer is not a certified instructor from any recognized organization. I tried to double check this fact but the Waterloo Police Bio of the officer has been pulled. The reason I make this statement, is within the first 2 minutes I saw the officer make numerous safety violations (sweeping the muzzle across people prior to demonstrating the firearm is not loaded).

    Third, the fact that the gun is inoperable does not change the designation as a firearm. There are numerous cases in other states that have confirmed this (example: Michigan, People v Dorling on June 13, 2013). The only way to remove the designation of a firearm is making the receiver permanently inoperable. If that was not the case, anybody would be able to buy any gun fully intact minus the barrel (as that was the part made inoperable per the news segment) and not go through the background check.

    There is a way to conduct this news segment without a violation of state law. The officer could have used a training devise or possibly a BB Gun that is inoperable. There are models out there that are nearly indistinguishable form real firearms.

    I finally state the someone/ILA consider a “writ of mandamus.” I am not an attorney but this one seems obvious to me. There needs to be a forcing function to ensure the press and more importantly the police enforce the state laws they are sworn to protect. Reciprocally if I conducted this type of “test” with my own children I will bet anybody that the prosecutors office would not turn a blind eye.

  9. John Adams says:

    Unbelievable! To think that KWWL conjoured up this fiasco not for any benefit of anyone except themselves to BOOST their ratings during ratings week is just pathetic. To think Amanda Goodman thought this was a good idea just tells me what I have suspected all along. She is a scatterbrain as in, not too bright! To think that a Police Officer, a Leiutenant none the less doesn’t know the law is I feel not so surprising as MOST POLICE OFFICERS today don’t know the laws they are paid to enforce. However having said that he is still responsible to know and enforce the laws and actually BROKE the law, His superiors at the station who I am sure had a hand in this or at the very least gave their blessing to it’s implementation should also be responsible. Heads should roll. Amanda should be given some time off, maybe to study the code 724.22. The Officer should be dropped to Sergeant so he can brush up on the laws as he as a Leiutenant doesn’t have a grasp of it. The higher-ups in the Waterloo Police Dept should be reprimanded also. I would imaging if pressed the Waterloo Police Department will say ” it’s an internal matter and will be handled internally!” That’s their way of saying it’s none of our business (as their employer as they work for us as public servants) and to go away and stay gone.

    The Waterloo Police Department is a bunch of incompetent people. I was arrested in 1995 for CRIMINAL TRESSPASS and INTERFERENCE WITH OFFICIAL ACTS for being leagally parked on a public access road. It took 3000.00 of money which I couldn’t afford with a wife and 5 kids to win in a jury trial that the Judge finally stepped in and stopped and found me innocent. I will NEVER forgive Waterloo’s Police Deptartment for the hurt they caused me and my family. CASE # SRCR057835 MAY 20th, 1996 11:06 AM. Look it up if you want. Just to show you that There is a problem with the Waterloo Police Dept. and why this experiment with our children borders on insanity. Oh, by the way. Ron Steele, I lived in Waterloo from 1964-to 1998. My forefathers settled there in 1869 . I have known you for along time and you are the DRAMA king. I wish you wouldn’t have put your stamp of approval on this social “experiment” with our children. Shameful!!!

  10. Cory says:

    This was totally biased. Planting a gun in a bunch of kids toys that’s just bs. I no virus have any respect for kwwl or that anti gun Amanda Goodman!!! Way to go in tricking stupid people to believe the lies you tell on the air!!!! You should be ashamed, and taken off the air…

  11. Lori says:

    Hide a box of matches next and see if any of the kids hide in a corner striking them….. kids are designed to be curious. Adults are supposed to protect kids from having access to thing that can harm them.
    Then have some preschoolers playing in the front seat of a running car and see what happens. If any of the kids are left alive, have them play near a filled pool with the best pool toys in the center of the deep end.
    Pointless KWWL…..what you experimented with just proves children are curious.

  12. John Adams says:

    And what does the Iowa Firearms Coalition have in store for KWWL or What do you plan on doing about it? You ask of us to fight back all the time, ask us to be aware of Bills they are trying to implement, ask us for our support and yet I am wondering if you are going to pursue this and press KWWL and the POLICE DEPT. for answers to serious questions. It is obvious Amanda Goodman has fired a shot across your Bow pardon the pun, so are you going to fire back and defend what you ask us to do all the time, or is the IFC going to limp away and do nothing? Appreciate what you do IFC, just go after them for all of us.

  13. Heather 50641 says:

    I myself was very grateful to see a story like this. It was very eye opening for myself and my children. There were very good points made about children knowing safety at home, but what about when they are at a friends house? Never once have I thought about my children coming into contact with weapons while playing with their friends. This has now turned into a learning tool and something I am now addressing with my children. This story was not done with ill intent and was done for the sole purpose of informing families, so hopefully nobody has to deal with a tragedy involving weapons and their young children.

  14. John Adams says:

    Heather, you can inform famlies and educate them without exposing 4&5 year olds to a gun, a real one at that. Glad you got something out of it even though it was a scare tactic and really stupid on KWWL AND THE LOCAL POLICE DEPT’S PART.

  15. Fence Post says:

    Seems like there are a lot of Philadelphia lawyers in here. Switch to decaf, you’ll go thru fewer boxes of tissue.

  16. Dave says:

    There was NO law broken here. As pointed out in the video at 1:05 the gun is not functional and 10 seconds later you can see the officers showing the mom’s the barrel has been welded shut.

  17. The Wraith says:

    Take a standard medical Petrie dish…

    Put powdered sugar inside it and in big red letters label it “EBOLA”. Set that Petrie dish in place of the firearm and let the children into play with the toys. Take those children, who have no concept of biological pathogens, no training or experience with molecular biology, most may have never seen a Petrie dish before… And see what happens.

    What did we learn? That Petrie dishes are dangerous? Especially ones clearly labeled Ebola. That when you place a dangerous object next to non-dangerous objects, in a secluded spot of a dark lit room, showcased by the only lights in the room, that children will assume the object is a toy? Or, did we learn children are curious, lack inherent caution, and make reckless choices?

    Parent’s should already know this, right? …shocking.

  18. Jay says:

    No law broken, I am not a lawyer but I can read and comprehend law, if not please advise me.
    Subsection 5 refers to minors 14-20 years of age, nothing in this section makes reference to a minor 13 and younger.
    You have to read Subsection 7, this is the only section that makes reference to a minor 13 and younger. And it states if a minor 13 and younger obtained a firearm without consent of the minors parent or guardian, so with consent it would be legal. Subsection 7 goes on to if if the firearm is used in an illegal manner, the last time I looked it wasn’t illegal to shoot targets at a range. The in my opinion the argument that a minor 13 and younger cannot go to the range with their parents or guardians is wrong.. Feel free to let me know….Pew Pew and Semper Fi

  19. msg51 says:

    It would be nice if someone would make a video of what kids who were taught about guns did in the same situation.

  20. EricNester says:

    I saw this story earlier on another post that said the test took place in Texas. Which, if that’s the case, Iowa law doesn’t matter. I actually have the story I saw on Facebook screenshotted and the title says “Testing Kids With Guns” – Texas.

  21. Nick says:

    We are not a gun owning home, but my 3 year old knows what to do if he sees a gun. Don’t touch it, instruct others not to touch it, get an adult right away. He knows that they’re very dangerous and not a toy.

    We’ve never allowed toy guns in our home – but when I saw one at a garage sale I bought it to test if he was understanding my instruction. He did understand – I left it on the floor for him to find, and the moment he saw it he called for me.

  22. Bud Jones says:

    If the portion of the statute posted above is accurate, the law was not broken. I think you missed the word “not” (just before the word “allow”). What you have posted is in accordance with the test, although I don’t think the children were under the direct supervision of anyone, as they were all watching from a different room. In the case of the family at the shooting range, once again assuming that what is posted is the actual law, the family was correct in their interpretation.

    I think someone either doesn’t know the law or simply posted an incorrect rendering of the law, as the wording of the portion of the law posted completely contradicts the rest of the article. Get your facts straight, either about the body of the article or the portion of the law which is to be posted.

  23. Bud Jones says:

    Oops! I have to offer a mea culpa. I re-read the statue and found that I had misinterpreted that section. So, the children have to be between 14 and 21 years old to be able to have their parent/legal guardian/etc…. allow them to handle firearms under supervision. Wow, so you can’t even go hunting on your own until you’re 21! Upon this reflection, this law should be rendered unconstitutional. I keep remembering the phrase “shall not be infringed.” Any gun law that in any way restricts our legal owning and bearing of arms, regardless of the good intentions of those who crafted said legislation, is strictly forbidden by the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution, and should be stricken. I really don’t understand these arcane laws. If someone has the means and wishes to purchase a tank, the 2nd Amendment allows for said purchase. It’s not a question of why someone would want to make that purchase, it’s simply a matter of not restricting that purchase.

    I think it’s high time that we get over our fear of guns and go back to the days of educating ourselves about them and how to properly use them. With education comes understanding – no education leaves us ignorant. I’m also in favor of eliminating all gun free zones. When one looks at the latest mass shootings, nearly all of them have occurred in gun free zones. I am in favor of allowing school teachers to receive training, and once qualified, carry. After all, who better to protect children at school, in an active shooter scenario, than their teacher? If we were to ban guns, only the criminals would have them, effectively making our country a gun free zone. The police need time to respond, and in that time, how many innocents would be killed?

    I applaud this type of “test”, even though it broke the state’s unconstitutional law. The police officers in attendance should have known about that law, so education needs to be applied all around. The failure of the TV station to note that the two children who didn’t handle the weapon were from homes that taught gun safety is not surprising, as this occurred during the station’s “sweeps week.” As such, they were going to spectacular as opposed to truthful reporting.

  24. Chris says:

    It’s unbelievable to me that they would carry out an “experiment” like this with a real weapon. Even if it wasn’t loaded. Remember the death of Brandon Lee? They thought precautions were well taken and he ended up dead. What if someone along the way of setting this up accidentally left a round chambered? Humans make mistakes, that’s just what we do. And to take any shred of chance with a room full of children is despicable.

  25. Angela D says:

    It’s nice that some parents educate their kids, but not all of them do. And not all kids would understand and/or obey gun safety protocol. Kids mess up constantly. They spill stuff, break stuff, make a mess, etc. Even if you teach your own kid doesn’t mean that they won’t make friends with another kid who doesn’t know better. Accidents happen. Keep the guns away from the kids. When I was a kid, I was taught that you never point a gun, play gun, stick gun or whatever at another person.

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