Opinion

Hockley: As a Sandy Hook Promise Parent, I Know That Prevention — Not More Guns — Is the Solution to Our Epidemic of School Shootings

By Nicole Hockley | January 9, 2019

John Moore/Getty Images

Since my son, Dylan, was murdered in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School six years ago, I have made it my life’s mission to protect other families from experiencing the excruciating pain that I endure every day as a result of his preventable death.

Following the tragedy that took my beautiful baby boy, we all thought legislation around gun reform would change. Yet the Senate failed to pass the Manchin-Toomey Amendment, which would have required universal background checks for firearm sales. And federal legislation, ever since, has stalled.

I met with President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos along with school shooting survivors and other victims’ families after the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I am pleased to know that our recommendations to invest in prevention efforts were heard in the public listening session, as well as in private sessions and meetings, and that the Federal Commission on School Safety was authorized. Within weeks, the STOP School Violence Act that we proposed was passed into law with overwhelming bipartisan support.

I am also pleased that the commission took some time to listen to the experiences of survivors, victims’ families, educators, physicians, mental health professionals, and students in researching its recent report for the White House. Many of the preventative measures recommended in the report — such as creating a school culture of inclusion, monitoring social media as a source for threats, implementing anonymous reporting systems paired with training for students and educators, and establishing multidisciplinary threat assessment teams in schools — support the value of and need for prevention programs, such as those offered by Sandy Hook Promise.

In 4 out of 5 school shootings, at least one person has knowledge of the attacker’s plan, and 70 percent of people who complete a suicide had told someone about their plans or given some type of warning. This means gun violence is preventable. After most shootings, the signs and signals that the perpetrator exhibited before the incident come to light. We can intervene when we know the signs.

We at Sandy Hook Promise have witnessed the impact of recognizing at-risk behaviors and intervening before a tragedy can occur. Through our Know the Signs programs, countless school shooting and firearm threats, suicides, acts of self-harm, and other incidents of violence have been averted — and schools have reported major decreases in bullying.

While I agree with many of the recommendations for improving prevention measures that are outlined in the commission’s report, I am appalled by the suggestion that we put more firearms in our schools. There is no evidence to support the arming of teachers as an effective prevention method or response in an active shooter scenario. And there is zero demand for it from the education community. This tactic was not supported in the listening sessions, nor is there any evidence that it is a sensible solution.

Instead, stronger preventative measures like Extreme Risk Protection Orders, also highlighted in the report, are the best ways to combat the escalation in incidents of gun violence. Sandy Hook Promise has advocated for legislation authorizing the issuance of these orders from the beginning, as it doesn’t impede on Second Amendment rights but ensures that people in crisis don’t have access to a firearm that could harm themselves or others. Several states have implemented or introduced such legislation.

As we enter a new year, let us all work together to ensure that the historic (and horrific) amount of gun violence we saw on school campuses in 2018 never happens again. Schools should be among the safest places in a community. Our youth shouldn’t be scared to go to school or be trained to expect a shooting to happen at any time. It is our duty to protect our children. We must know the signs to ensure their safety. I hope that the preventative recommendations from the commission are turned into action and sustained funding, so all students across the country have access to these lifesaving programs.

Nicole Hockley is co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise.

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