DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa has held plenty of vigils and rallies after mass shootings, but tried something different Wednesday, in the aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton massacres.
"It's alright to pray and it's alright to light candles. But now we must put some action into place," a speaker said.
Nearly 200 people gathered to discuss how they think the nation should be addressing issues of hate and bigotry in relation to gun violence. Everyone split up into groups to brainstorm policy ideas and shared them when they were done. They plan on sending their shortlist to elected Iowa leaders as well as presidential candidates.
The alliance's executive director, Connie Ryan, said they were collectively tired of coming together after every shooting and not seeing anything change.
"We wanted to do something where people could take something away and take the conversation we're having tonight and do something." Ryan said. "It is no longer acceptable to sit on the sidelines. "
The group came up with a variety of ideas for solutions, including calling out hate speech, pressuring lawmakers and boycotting businesses that continue to sell weapons.
"The access to guns and how our society has allowed that to grow is no longer acceptable," Ryan said.
She said they need to call out Iowa's U.S. senators to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass legislature like universal background checks and red flag laws.
"It’s one piece of the puzzle, but why don’t our elected officials have the backbone to take that up?" Ryan said.
Some on the other side of the debate said gun control reform solutions are not simple. Tom Hudson, the managing parter of Crossroads Shooting Sports, said even if universal background checks and red flag laws were passed, guns can still get in the hands of the wrong people.
"Evil exists in the world, that’s the bottom line," Hudson said. "But how do you identify and how you eliminate it? That’s a tough thing and I’m not sure the political system has ever been set up to deal with it."
He suggested stronger enforcement of current gun laws as a first step, or raising the minimum age to purchase a rifle.
"I don’t know if the mechanism really matters, if someone has motive they are gonna hurt somebody," Hudson said.
Despite their differences, both parties agreed that something must be done to prevent these mass shootings from happening again.
"This last week in the United States was absolutely horrific," Hudson said. "That's for sure."