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Iowa Mom | Gun Safety Advocate | Community Leader

Iowa Mom | Gun safety advocate | Community Leader

Amber Gustafson

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?
— Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Bio

CURRENT Stats

Ankeny, Iowa | Mom of 3 | Founder: Grassfed Yoga | Iowa Volunteer Membership & Community Outreach Lead & National Training Team: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America | Graduate Student, Master of Arts in Communication, Public Policy & Advocacy at Drake University |

 

Serving others

#KeepGoing

Board Member: Ankeny Dollars for Scholars | Fundraising Committee Member: Project Iowa | Board Member: Iowa CASA (Coalition Against Sexual Assault) | Board Member: Reach Out and Read Iowa | Volunteer: Ankeny Area Democrats | Volunteer: Prairie Trail Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization

 

Herstory

Farm Girl strong

Born: 1976 in Leon, Iowa | Graduated: 1995 Orient-Macksburg High School, Orient, Iowa | Recipient: Christina Hixson Opportunity Award, 1995 | Graduated: 1999, Greenlee School of Journalism & Communication, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

I was born on a farm in Decatur County, Iowa where my dad raised hogs and cattle and grew soybeans, corn and other row crops. We had many things in abundance: love, friendships, work ethic, ingenuity, integrity and laughter. But none of those things could protect us from the crash of the agriculture economy in the 1980’s. In just a matter of months, our family lost everything — our home, our business, and all our security for the future.

Over the next decade, our family floundered as we coped with the fall out — mental illness, unemployment, poverty, physical illness, bad credit and the cascading effects of the Farm Crisis as businesses and farms collapsed around us.

In 1990, at the age of 50, my dad, who was working to pick up the pieces of our family’s economic future died from a pulmonary embolism after battling a vascular disease that had caused him months of pain and disability.

Dad’s loss meant even more instability and uncertainty for our family. But my mom instilled in me the importance of the one way out of poverty for kids like me: a college degree - something she was never able to pursue.

In 1995, I was proud to be named among the first class of Christina Hixson Opportunity Award Winners at Iowa State University. This $10,000 scholarship covered nearly all of my four years of tuition and allowed me to fulfill my dream (and my mom’s dream for me) of being the first person in my family to graduate from college.

I will never forget those days in Ames, working three jobs plus going to school full time. It wasn’t ever easy but through hard work and determination, I was able to graduate in 4 years and join the workforce without overwhelming student debt.

As the daughter of a farmer, I learned first hand the importance of hard work and sacrifice to serve the needs of others. As a Hixson Scholar, I saw the powerful positive impact of wealth shared to give opportunities to those lower on the social and economic ladder.

After years working as an academic advisor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, our family moved to Ankeny and I left the full time workforce to stay at home with my kids and help my husband build his small business.

Having the option to stay at home with my kids has been an enormous blessing to our family and has allowed me to pursue causes and interests I love including being involved with my children’s schools, serving the others in need and being active in our faith community.

In 2006, I became a certified yoga instructor and in 2013, began operating as an independent instructor, teaching out of my home and in other locations as a contractor. In 2019, I incorporated my business to become Grassfed Yoga.

As a small business owners, my husband and I have rolled up our sleeves to build career opportunities for others in our community. Our family has felt the impact of changes to the private health insurance market as we have worked hard to build a legacy we can pass on to the next generation.

My life changed on December 14, 2012 when a gun man entered an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and murdered 20 innocent children and six educators before turning the gun on himself. As a community and school volunteer, my heart was terrified and devastated, but as a mother and a gun owner, I knew I had an obligation and a responsibility to be part of the solution to the gun violence problem our country had faced for decades before Sandy Hook.

Just six months later I joined a fledgling organization that had been initally launched as a Facebook page: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

For the next five years, I threw my whole heart into standing against the rising tide of gun violence in America by working for candidates who pledged to take action, by lobbying state and federal lawmakers and by working in my community to educate peers and change culture and business practices around firearms use and sale.

In 2017, after watching my state senator vote a third time to abolish Iowa’s handgun permitting requirements, I resigned my position in Moms Demand Action and ran against him.

On November 6, 2018 I came within three points of beating the NRA-backed Iowa Senate Majority Leader.

Since my race ended, I have not stopped speaking up for the things I care about - public education, water quality, mental health, entrepreneurship, women’s health, domestic violence, welcoming immigrants, gun violence prevention, climate change, LGBTQ issues, and the vibrancy of rural Iowa farming communities.

I count it a privilege to have grown up here and my family’s Iowa roots, like our love for home, run deep. We have built businesses, raised families and farmed the rich, black soil of this “land between two rivers” going back five generations.

But the beauty of Iowa is not just in those who have grown up here. It is not just in the tenacity of the people who have stayed to weather storms — snow, wind, hail and economic.

It is in the ways in which Iowans welcome others into our communities, homes and lives. And it’s in the creativity and hope of the newest arrivals who chose Iowa to raise their families, build their families, attend school and more.

I invite you follow me on social media and to join me on my mission to help families flourish by donating to one or all of these organizations and to speak out in your community for a fairer system for all.

Best,

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