This week our country witnessed a horrific school shooting that claimed the lives of 19 children and two educators in Uvalde, Texas — a tragedy eerily similar to Sandy Hook, where my sweet little Daniel was murdered in his first-grade classroom nearly 10 years ago.
I know many of us are overcome with grief and hopelessness, but I’m here to tell you that we can move from tragedy to transformation. We can stop the scourge of mass shootings with a holistic approach that combines (1) community awareness of warning signs and how to effectively intervene; (2) research on root causes and effective prevention strategies, and (3) sensible gun safety policy.
As with many gunmen of mass shootings, the Uvalde shooter exhibited several warning signs before his attack, yet no one intervened. We need to find the courage to speak up when we see signs that someone may be at risk of hurting themselves or others — even when it might feel uncomfortable to do so. My organization, Sandy Hook Promise, teaches millions in schools nationwide to recognize the warning signs, to act immediately, and “say something” to a trusted adult to get help. We need to do the same work in our communities.
We also need to enact evidence-based policies that have been proven to help prevent mass shootings. Gun violence is a public health epidemic — not a partisan issue, and demands smart, strategic policy solutions. These don’t need to be extreme: we can protect the Second Amendment and stop mass shootings simultaneously by implementing policies like these:
- Extreme Risk Protection Orders: Many states offer families the option of temporarily transferring firearms from loved ones who may be in crisis. Policies like this help prevent gun violence and suicide, and because they are about taking action before a gun is misused, they also protect Second Amendment rights. It is critical that states that have these invest in ensuring communities know when and how to use this vital, life-safety tool.
- Expanded Background Checks: Closing the Violent Hate Crimes Loophole (among others) in our background checks system would prohibit the sale of firearms to individuals who have been convicted of threatening others with a deadly weapon or assaulting someone based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
- Safe Storage Policies: Keeping firearms locked separately from ammunition protects young people from both accidental and intentional gun violence. We need to strengthen safe storage requirements and increase access to secure storage options for families.
We have to come together, as a country, to stop gun violence. Each and every one of us has the power — and the duty — to help. From elected officials to ordinary neighbors, we have the ability to make a difference — and the difference you make could save lives. Please learn the warning signs and get help immediately if you observe them. And please tell your elected officials to enact these sensible gun policies now.
Mark Barden is co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund, and the father of Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy on Dec. 14, 2012.