O’Rourke is standing up for students

Every day, I go to school not knowing if I will make it home. My friends and I at Nashua High School South live with the fear that we could be the next addition to a list that is already too long. When our biggest worry should be the next test or tonight’s homework, my mind instead fixates on what door or window is closest, or what textbook I have in my possession to throw at the gunman. As the chair of the New Hampshire High School Democrats, I know from experience that young people across the state share these fears.

This is not right. After every mass shooting, politicians promise action and have so far failed to deliver. It’s long past due for us to take decisive action – we can no longer afford half measures or tepid stances to confront this crisis. We need bold leadership and bold solutions that will make a real difference. Right now, Beto O’Rourke is offering our country that leadership, and I know many students, including myself, appreciate this.

Beto has consistently shown courage in the face of the gun lobby and special interests. During his Senate campaign, Beto visited every county in Texas, including some of the most conservative places in the country, and no matter where he went, he passionately made the case for background checks, red flag laws, and an assault weapons ban.

But then, as is far too common in this country, hatred and violence came to Beto’s hometown of El Paso. Despite being one of the safest cities in the country – where an average of 18 people are murdered annually – a terrorist wiedling an AK-47 drove 600 miles and killed 22 of his neighbors in a single day. Beto and his family experienced firsthand the tragedy, grief and anger that has gripped so many across this country – and he has responded more powerfully than any leader in a long time.

Beto stood with his community when they needed him most, but once he returned to the campaign trail, he brought moral clarity and passion to the race in a way no other candidate has. He is willing to take bold steps to keep us safe, and he has shown that he will passionately stand up for what he believes. Famously, when pushed on national television during the last debate, Beto made it very clear that he will not be intimidated by the NRA’s scare tactics. He will advocate for what is needed to respond to this crisis, even if it’s politically difficult.

Beto O’Rourke also is standing with young people and students across the country, and has shown a commitment to elevating our voices. After March for Our Lives released their “Peace Plan for a Safer America” last month, Beto endorsed it and began promoting it almost right away, showing that he values student leadership. March for Our Lives’ plan lays out an ambitious plan to take on the NRA and halve the rate of gun deaths in ten years. The youth-led movement founded by Parkland students has been shocking the conscience of our country since February 2018 – and Beto knows that by elevating our voices across the country, we can defeat the NRA.

We need more leaders in this country who are willing to ignore the politics and do what’s right. Too many of our neighbors and children have died at the hands of gun violence, and it’s time to take action. I think Beto has become a strong voice of moral clarity in this race. By not backing down from what he believes and speaking out in the face of powerful opposition, and putting students first, Beto has started an important conversation about what we need to do to address gun violence and keep Americans safe.

So, when Beto calls on us to come together, stand up to the NRA, and take bold action, I say, “Hell, yes.”

Asma Akbar is chair of the New Hampshire High School Democrats and is a student at Nashua High School South.