Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit organisation led by family members of children massacred at a Connecticut elementary school in 2012, released a chilling public awareness advertisement for its violence prevention campaign on Wednesday. But they also reveal that shootings are so common, children are being encouraged to "spot signs" of potential violence and look for traits in others that wouldn't be deemed normal behaviour
Warning: This is a harrowing watch, that you will find disturbing.
The advertisement, called Back to School Essentials, shows children using standard back to school items like scissors, pencils and sneakers as they attempt to flee from a gunman. It reveals how the every day, the promise of learning, has been tainted by violence and terror in the United States, as a result of current gun laws.
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“These new socks? They can be a real lifesaver,” said one girl, as she tied a pair of long white socks around the bloodied leg of another girl as she lay unable to walk. Children are encouraged to use pencils and scissors as weapons of self-defence. One texts 'I love you mom' as she hides in a closet.
A gunman killed 26 children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where the non-profit organisation is based, in the deadliest public school shooting in US history on December 14th, 2012.
The advertisement, which aired during NBC’s Today Show aims to bring awareness to Sandy Hook Promise’s school violence prevention program “Know the Signs,” which teaches youth and adults how to recognise warning signs and intervene to prevent mass shootings.
Another posted on Facebook by the same group in 2016, encourages viewers to know the signs when someone might be planning a violent attack. "When you don't know what to look for, it can be easy to miss signs of someone who is in crisis or planning violence. Watch our compelling new video to learn how to Know the Signs and bring our free prevention programs to your community," reads the video caption.
"Meant to be intense"
Speaking to CNN, Nicole Hockley, the organisation’s managing director whose 6-year-old son Dylan was killed in the shooting, said the video was “meant to be intense.”
“This is what our kids are experiencing now in school,” she explained. “We wanted to focus on this back-to-school time because parents still think of it as this rosy time where you’re getting your staplers, shoes, folders and binders…Whereas, it’s back to a time of violence for a lot of kids.”
Normalising violence for children
It is absolutely true that the ad, for obvious reasons, is intended to shock, to highlight that this is or has been a reality for many children going to school in the US. But, we must remember that the burden should not fall to our children to spot the signs, it is up to the adults, those who can incite change, to act and protect them.
The video clip is a sign of the drastic measures anti-gun groups are facing in 2019 – almost normalising the violence so that children know how to act, spot signs and therefore protect themselves.
How has it come to this?
It's hard to fathom the situation in the ad, yet it is a reality. That a potential act of terror will not only force children to think of school as a place they should be afraid, but as a place where they might one day enter the classroom as kids and come out with no childhood innocence – or, terrifyingly, not come out at all.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 302 mass shootings in the US this year so far, while Donald Trump has only responded to recent fatal shootings with the promise that “serious discussions” about background checks are underway.
We must do better than this.
Main photograph: Unsplash
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