Mark Barden lost his 7-year-old son Daniel when a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. He’s a dear friend whom I’ve gotten to know after covering the horrific Sandy Hook massacre. He now works as the Managing Director for the Sandy Hook Promise, an organization he founded that provides gun violence prevention programs and advocates for sensible state and national gun safety policy. After the recent massacres over the past week, here’s what he told me:
Learning the news of these horrible tragedies that have unfolded in our country over the weekend is a sobering reminder that there’s so much work to do. For me, it’s scraping open a wound that has still not yet healed, and it will probably never heal. But, this isn’t about me and my tragedy — although, I will mourn the loss of my seven-year-old son Daniel forever. This is about these families who are having to bear this and having to live this unbearable pain from now on. And to know that it’s preventable and to know that this doesn’t have to continue happening in this country — that we are better than this and there are solutions available to us. We just need to act collectively as a nation and make the epidemic of gun violence a priority. There are so many different ways our citizens can get involved. We know that we have the numbers, nobody supports gun violence. We know that there are solutions that 90% of the American public support as well as bipartisan support in our state and federal legislatures.
My organization Sandy Hook Promise offers free training for students and teachers and parents to learn how to recognize warning signs in someone who is a potentially either way to causing a violent act or violent crime and get that person connected to the help that they need before it becomes a tragedy.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has passed H.R.8, which is a bipartisan background check expansion bill. For some reason, it’s not being taken up by the Senate. The Senate has a version of the background checks expansion bill that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems to be refusing to put to the floor for a vote. So that needs to happen, and that can happen — if the 97% of Americans who want that to happen will raise their voice and insist on it.
There’s another measure that kind of combines the work that I do with Sandy Hook Promise with legislative policy and that’s the extreme risk protection order — which basically empowers families with the tools when they recognize somebody in crisis or at risk for causing harm to themselves or others, to petition the court to safely store their firearms in another location until that person is okay to resume their ownership. That would save countless lives that are lost to suicide and to domestic violence. Those are three main initiatives that I would say right now are available to us and could save countless lives.