Several Lowcountry high school students have launched a political advocacy group to push for what they call common-sense gun control in South Carolina in the wake of the February mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., that claimed 17 lives.
The group, Lowcountry Students for Political Action, was formed by the same core group of students who hold leadership positions in March For Our Lives Charleston.
Several of the group’s organizers, including Jacob Gamble, 17, who recently graduated from Ashley Ridge High School, announced the formation of the group on Thursday at a press conference.
LSPA’s mission, the students said, centers on advocating for stricter control by encouraging political participation among young people.
During the last legislative session, LSPA students championed Senate Bill 516, which would have extended the number of days a gun purchase is postponed while a federal background check is pending.
The bill, however, stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Self-avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof's drug arrest popped up during a background check when he applied to buy a handgun. But the FBI was not able to quickly determine that the arrest prohibited the purchase. The three-day waiting period expired while the check was still pending, allowing him to take home the weapon that he would later use to kill nine black worshippers at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church.
The purchase of a firearm without a completed background check has become known as the "Charleston loophole."
“South Carolina students will re-enter school this fall. They will be in danger when they do so,” Gamble said. “Because of the failures of our legislature, the question is not if, but when, a shooting will happen at a school in South Carolina.”
Even though the legislative session yielded no change, LSPA members are set on maintaining their momentum.
“It’s a serious issue for us in particular. Most of us still have school left, and we will be attending school in this area,” said LSPA member Jefferson Taylor. “So we’re hoping we can make a change that will last and keep our fellow students safe.”
Taylor is a rising junior at Palmetto Scholars Academy.
Next month, LSPA organizers will join with student activists from the national March For Our Lives movement when survivors from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting visit Charleston as part of their bus tour, Road to Change, to energize young voters.
The national tour is slated to begin June 15 in Chicago followed by more than 50 planned stops in at least 20 states. A separate tour will stretch across Florida, visiting Florida's 27 congressional districts.
The students are in the process of organizing a panel discussion to take place on July 31 featuring survivors from February’s shooting as well as loved ones of victims from the Emanuel AME shooting. A town hall event is expected to follow the discussion.