Nicole Hockley

Two parents who lost children almost 10 years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School said Tuesday’s shooting in Texas was “eerily or hauntingly similar” and also preventable. 

Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden of Sandy Hook Promise said using their program of identifying the signs that could prompt a school shooting at least nine school shootings have been averted. 

“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, who lost her son Dylan, said.

Barden’s son Daniel was also murdered in the 2012 shooting.

“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.

Mark Barden

One of those shootings that didn’t happen because the signs were caught was in West Virginia when a child reported he saw a classmate with a gun in his backpack while riding the bus. Authorities were able to find the gun and ammunition and that student admitted he planned to kill someone later that day. 

In Texas Hockley said the shooter was “angry he couldn’t graduate with his high school class. Anger, isolation, bullying. These are all early indicators of someone who needs help and that’s what we’re all about. How do you get to someone in those very early moments? Especially earlier in their life so it never escalates. It never gets to the next stage of violence.”

Hockley said there were reports he was “withdrawn. He spent hours alone by himself in an isolated room, it’s very echoes of the Sandy Hook shooter there.”

She said there was a lot of opportunity to see this person needed help before he did something tragic.

“We have a gun problem in this country and it’s not just about constitutional rights, it’s about access and a complete lack of regulation,” Hockley said.

Hockley and Barden are hoping lawmakers in Congress act to prevent future tragedies, whether that’s expanding background checks or instituting a national red flag law that allows law enforcement to take the guns away from a person who is a threat to themselves or others. 

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.

“In almost every mass shooting, school shooting, and almost every suicide, there are signs,” Hockley said.

The Sandy Hook Promise teaches schools across the country how to recognize warning signs and take action before violence takes place.

Hockley said some signs can go overlooked. For instance, the Uvalde shooter had violent social media posts and posts of purchased weapons.

Taken individually, warning signs may not directly correlate to a mass shooting, but those exhibited by the Robb Elementary School shooter point to someone who was clearly at risk of harming themselves or others. Warning signs like those offer an opportunity to interrupt violence and must be taken seriously by acting immediately to get help.

They said reversing the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our nation requires a holistic approach that combines community awareness of warning signs and how to effectively intervene, research on root causes and effective upstream prevention strategies, and sensible gun safety policy.

“Call on your elected officials to pass commonsense legislation now that protects the safety and lives of children. This can be done while upholding second amendment rights,” Hockley and Barden said. 

They said prevention should not be a partisan issue and there are strategies that exist to prevent mass shootings.