My son, Sgt. Daniel R. Keegan, served his country proudly as an intel analyst for the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg and was named the 7th Special Forces Group Soldier of the Year.

After his service in the military, Dan planned to work as a veterans’ advocate and guide to the civilian population on the issues important to vets. Amongst his concerns was the subject of gun ownership. My son firmly believed in the 2nd Amendment. However, as a veteran soldier he strongly believed in the importance of taking weapons such as the AR-15 and AK-47 out of the hands of civilians.

That is why, as a mother, and as a gun violence prevention advocate myself, I support Beto O’Rourke’s plan to ban assault weapons and implement a mandatory buyback program to get weapons of war off our streets.

Unfortunately, all of Dan’s remarkable accomplishments were not enough to keep my him alive when he developed PTSD. In an effort to self medicate his PTSD symptoms Dan became a heroin addict and after waiting 16 months for care from the VA, my boy died just two weeks before he was scheduled to finally go into a treatment program. His cause of death was an infection related to his IV drug use. For this reason I am now a full time veterans advocate, traveling to Washington two weeks out of every month to speak on the concerns of veterans and the people who love them.

Sgt. Daniel R. Keegan (Courtesy of Stephanie Keegan)
Sgt. Daniel R. Keegan (Courtesy of Stephanie Keegan)

Knowing how strongly my son felt about ensuring the weapons he carried in Kandahar, Afghanistan, would not end up in the hands of dangerous individuals on our streets, I am carrying on Dan’s legacy by supporting O’Rourke’s buyback program. It is absolutely unacceptable that we live in a country where there are more guns than people, and that some of those guns are capable of killing nine people in 32 seconds as happened in Dayton, Ohio, or innocent parents and kids shopping for school supplies in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

I have conversations with veterans on this subject regularly, and I can assure you that my son was not the only veteran who felt this way. It is essential to the safety of this remarkable nation that we all take responsibility for the things we can control, and we can control this. O’Rourke is absolutely right on the buyback issue, which is just a small part of his remarkable plan to end this horrendous epidemic of gun violence in America.

Editor’s note: This is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please contact Military Times managing editor Howard Altman, haltman@militarytimes.com.