I'm 19-years-old and I have grown up in the era of mass shootings where gun violence has permeated our society, making us numb. I'm from Charleston and my community has experienced firsthand the horrors of gun violence inspired by white nationalism.
Last year, growing tired of standing by as these shootings took place, I became an organizer in Charleston for March For Our Lives. The organization was formed in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. in 2018 which killed 17 students and faculty.
Survivors of that shooting and other young people from across the country organized a march in Washington D.C. to demand that the White House and Congress act to prevent future shootings and reduce gun violence.
I've continued my involvement in the fight for gun safety since then with Lowcountry Students for Political Action, a group I co-founded focused on gun reform and youth involvement in politics. In March of this year I had the opportunity to sit down with former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke during his first visit to South Carolina to talk about gun violence and my group's efforts at the state and national level. I was moved by that experience because of his fervent and authentic support for gun violence prevention and his attentiveness to the concerns and questions my colleagues and I laid out. Shortly after that meeting I reached out to one of the campaign's staffers and decided to throw my support behind Beto in the primary. I now serve as the chair of South Carolina Students for Beto.
Since my decision to support Beto, he has continued to demonstrate leadership on this issue and drive the national conversation on how best to confront gun violence.
This month, many South Carolinians saw his passion in the most recent Democratic debate where he reaffirmed his support for a mandatory buyback of assault weapons and said, "Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15s, your AK-47s," which ignited a national discussion around gun control.
This is a conversation that we have had countless times as a country in the aftermath of mass shootings we have endured in recent years. But Beto is pushing past the normal conversation and the politics of status quo and is advocating for bolder solutions to meet the urgency of this crisis.
Beto realizes that half-measures and modest proposals have accomplished nothing. We need a mandatory buyback of AR-15s and AK-47s so that these weapons will no longer be on the streets and used to carry out mass shootings.
These are weapons designed for war, not protection or hunting. They have no place in the hands of private citizens and have contributed to nearly 40,000 gun deaths that we see every year in America. And this proposal is popular among the American people. According to a recent ABC/Washington Post poll, 52 percent of Americans support a mandatory buyback of military-style assault weapons.
We need bold action instead of incremental steps to confront the challenge of gun violence our country faces. The 36,000 gun deaths our country experiences every year are preventable and we know that gun control and a mandatory buyback of assault weapons will reduce that number. We need more lawmakers to rely on the courage of their convictions like Beto does rather than cowering to the gun lobby and conventional wisdom.
Jacob Gamble is the chairman of South Carolina Students for Beto.