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Above represents the estimated number of children who have died due to gun violence since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

On September 17, 2019, the non-profit group Sandy Hook Promise released a public service announcement titled “Back-To-School Essentials.” The video starts out with a young man opening a locker and saying his mom got him the “perfect bag for back to school.” The camera switches to a young girl announcing that her colorful binder is great. Another student loves his new noise-canceling headphones that he’s using in the library. However, as these students are telling the camera about their favorite school supplies, faculty and other students in the background are running and locking doorsin reaction to the sound of gunshots. . 

A student sprints toward the camera, complimenting his new sneakers as students are falling to the floor in the hallway behind him. More students use their new jackets to tie doors closed, stand with scissors to protect themselves and use their new socks to wrap a classmate’s wound. The video ends with a young girl using the cell phone her mother purchased to text her one last time, sending a chilling message: “I love you mom.” The audience can hear boots coming into the bathroom where she’s hiding as she holds in her tears in an attempt to be silent. 

This video has received a variety of feedback, and has been been quite controversial due to the sensitive topic. Some people find this triggering and fear it will simply scare children, but it’s still necessary for everyone to view it and learn from it. 

This PSA is heart-wrenching and emotional, but sadly, these are events students in America may have to go through. Sandy Hook Promise was created by those who lost family members at Sandy Hook Elementary during the shooting on December 14, 2012. This non-profit organization wants to create a culture engaged in preventing shootings, violence and other harmful acts in schools. Through this PSA, the organization said they wanted to promote the idea that school shootings are preventable as long as people know the signs. The organization isn’t politically based but rather based in care. The founders of Sandy Hook Promise have said they don’t want anyone else to lose a loved one in the same tragic and horrific way they did.  

According to the Gun Violence Archive on September 24th, there have been 310 mass shootings in 2019. Out of these shootings, there have been 513 children ages 0-11 killed or injured and 2,268 teens ages 12-17 killed or injured. There have been at least 69 school shootings in 2019, and the threat of a mass shooting in any public place is extremely real. Although they may not understand it, young children have to be taught what to do in a situation of that sort, practicing lockdown drills alongside with tornado and earthquake drills. In our society, mass shootings are more common than they should be. Yet, people fail to prevent them simply because they don’t know the signs of a shooter. 

Some parents may find it inappropriate to show their children this video because of its graphic and intense content; however, the alternative would be waiting for an incident to happen at their child’s school, and then it’d  be too late. Parents have the ability to teach their children what to do, but that still might not be enough. The Sandy Hook Promise’s message and mission of knowing the signs is the best safety prevention — barring any legislative change with gun control. Students should be taught the signs as well as the reasons behind a mass shooting. This could cause students to report suspicious activity or even recognize the signs within themselves and ask for help before it goes too far. 

Megan Klepper is a senior, writing, rhetoric and technical communication major. Contact Megan at kleppemc@dukes.jmu.edu.