Sandy Hook parents carry non-violence message

Sandy Hook, a search for solutions. That’s the goal of parents of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. And it’s the topic of a major public forum Tuesday night at 7pm at the Franciscan Center at Lourdes University in Sylvania. The forum is free and open to the public.

Two of the speakers at the forum are Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley, both of whom lost their first grade sons in the deadly shooting at Sandy Hooke Elementary school on December 14, 2012. That’s when a mentally unbalanced 20-year man shot his way through a security system at the school and opened fire on first graders, killing 20 children and 6 educators. Mark’s 7-year old Daniel, and Nicole’s son 6-year old Dylan, are the driving force behind their involvement in Sandy Hook Promise, an organization that travels the country with the message of reducing gun violence. “I just couldn’t let it be a senseless tragedy, and I couldn’t let Dylan’s memory just fade away,” says Hockley. “I owe this to Daniel, he was going to a lot of really good work in this world and he can’t now,” says Barden.

Speaking to a packed audience of law enforcement, social workers, educators and mental health professionals, Nicole and Mark share a vision where gun violence is a distant memory. “There are 500-thousand acts of gun violence every year, which include homicide, suicide and accidental or unintentional shootings,” says Hockley, “around 32-thousand die every year, including 8 children and teenagers, every day.” The group is not focusing on gun control, but getting help to people at risk for violence early on. “That incudes people with mental illness, a lack of mental wellness, fear or anger, social skills people might not have,” says Barden. And lessons for intervening when people who suffer from these problems threaten to harm others, programs for identifying teens that are at risk for isolating and potentially dangerous behaviors. “We need to teach kids to say something when they see violent or suicidal behavior in social media for example,” says Hockley.

This includes initiating programs that are easily folded into existing policies. “They’re effective, they’re simple and they’re inexpensive or free,” says Barden. “And some can be peer led. We can’t let 8 kids dying in the country be acceptable.”