Nicole Hockley can't believe it’s been almost ten years since a shooter took her son Dylan’s life at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
She and others in the Newtown community say their arms are wide open to the families in Texas whenever they need a shoulder to lean on.
“It has been far too eerily or hauntingly similar to Sandy Hook, and has really been very hard for Mark and I and our families to process this," Hockley said.
Mark Barden’s son Daniel was also murdered.
“No parent should have to experience this, this devastation. And it's infuriating. It's horrific. And there's also, strangely enough, there's hope in that it is preventable," Barden said.
Yes, these parents who have experienced such horror still have hope - hope that we can make change.
Hockley and Barden are the co-founders and CEO’s of Sandy Hook Promise. They said progress has been made since the deaths of their children a decade ago, and this Texas tragedy just doubles down on their advocacy to protect kids from gun violence. They also shared their prevention strategies, too.
“In almost every mass shooting, school shooting, and almost every suicide, there are signs,” Hockley said.
Hockley said some signs can go overlooked. For instance, the Uvalde shooter had violent social media posts and posts of purchased weapons.
“Anger, isolation, bullying, these are all early indicators of someone who needs help, and that's what we're all about is how do you get to someone in those very early moments, especially earlier in their life, so that it never escalates and never gets to the next stage of violence,” she said.
They are urging everyone to keep an eye out and report similar signs.
“We just feel frustration, because we know we have a model that works and we want to be everywhere for everyone, immediately. And as a nonprofit organization, it takes a lot of resources for us to get there and bring our trainings that Nicole just articulated to more students," Hockley said.
But these parents said recognizing warning signs is only part of the puzzle to prevention to protect innocent lives like Daniel’s and Dylan’s, and those killed in Texas.
In a press conference with members of the media Thursday, Sandy Hook Promise also spelled out the policy solutions they believe could prevent future mass shootings.
Specifically, Barden pointed out that closing the loophole in federal background checks and regulations for military assault weapons would help. Plus, policy for secure storage of guns is critical, and said red flag laws are proven to work.
“I'm going to ask you, and for everyone who sees this or hears this, you're feeling rage or feeling hurt by what's happened in Uvalde, Texas, hold on to that. Let it push you forward. Don't allow yourself the luxury of soothing yourself. Take that rage, that outrage, and turn it into action, so don't let it die with a news cycle. Keep it in your heart," Barden said.
"Keep those children's faces in your heart and think to yourself, ‘What can I do? Can I do more? Who else can help?’ Everybody needs to be involved and we owe it to our children," he continued.
Sandy Hook Promise is also partnering with an organization offering free mental health support services for students, families and educators impacted by the Texas tragedy.
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