A co-founder of March for Our Lives, the group formed by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting in 2018, joined Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign Saturday, saying he believes a "movement" that has captured the support of young people across the country is what is needed to fight gun violence and the powerful gun lobby.
Matt Deitsch, who has led the national grassroots pro-gun control group's strategy, will serve as Sanders' gun violence prevention advisor, building on the senator's gun violence policy by working closely with other survivors, gun control advocates, and organizations.
"America's gun violence epidemic is a public health crisis that requires dedicated organizing. The military industrial complex has tainted our health across America and abroad," Deitsch said in a statement. "I am proud of Senator Sanders' growth and commitment to ending gun violence, and we won't win this fight for all of our safety unless we organize at a historic level. And that's what we are setting out to do with this effort."
Noting that Sanders has garnered some criticism over the years from anti-gun groups for not supporting mandatory background checks for gun purchases in the 1990s and supporting immunity from lawsuits for gun manufacturers, other advocates joined Deitsch in applauding the senator for his evolution on the issue as gun violence in the U.S. has gained more national attention and lax regulations have made shootings more deadly.
"I appreciate Bernie Sanders' honest and thoughtful description of the evolution he's had on guns," tweeted Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords, during Friday night's Democratic debate. "He would be a formidable adversary for the NRA as president."
I appreciate @BernieSanders' honest & thoughtful description of the evolution he's had on guns. Yes, Bernie's made mistakes (particularly with gun industry immunity), but he's changed - and so has the country. He would be a formidable adversary for the @NRA as president.
— Peter Ambler (@PeterMAmbler) February 8, 2020
March for Our Lives also applauded Sanders during the debate when he spoke about the importance of gaining the support of young voters—as he has, according to numerous recent polls—in order to win the Democratic primary and the general election against President Donald Trump in November.
“That means bringing in people who have given up on the political process. That means turning out young people.“@BernieSanders understands the power of the youth vote.
Our chapters are ready to register & turn out a record breaking number of young voters#DemDebate
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— March For Our Lives (@AMarch4OurLives) February 8, 2020
In addition to organizing pro-gun control rallies and student walkouts and lobbying members of Congress, March for Our Lives has been active in registering young voters since it was formed in 2018.
"Young people are leading the fight against gun violence in this country, and I am proud that Matt will join us to help build this movement together," said Sanders as the campaign announced Deitsch's new role. "We must finally take on the enormous and corrupt power of the NRA and stop the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our country."
Sanders's gun safety platform includes expanding background checks and ending the gun show loophole which allows purchasers to quickly buy guns without a background check, banning the sale and transfer of assault weapons, prohibiting high-capacity magazines, and pushing for "red flag" laws to help keep guns out of the hands of those likely to hurt themselves or others.
"Gun violence cannot simply be ended through federal policy," Deitsch emphasized Saturday. "It takes a movement."
Leading the campaign's efforts on preventing gun violence, Deitsch plans to work with other advocates to "tackle all the factors associated with gun violence and trauma, taking into account the many forms of gun violence"—including mass shootings as well as violence in communities, domestic violence, and police shootings of civilians.
"Gun violence prevention is a winning issue," Deitsch tweeted. "It's a life saving issue and this campaign is set out to save lives."