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Hope for Tennessee Advocates Against Gun Violence

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Our guest bloggers are Mark Barden, Co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund and Nicole Hockley, Co-founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise. Mark’s son Daniel and Nicole’s son Dylan were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy on December 14, 2012. This post was originally published in The Tennessean as an opinion editorial (op-ed).

We Sandy Hook parents encourage Tennesseans to remain hopeful advocates against gun violence

To the Parents of Children Killed in the Covenant School Shooting and all who share in their grief:
As parents who have some understanding of the depth of your pain and the profound void left by the death of your beloved children in the Covenant School shooting, we write to offer support, solidarity, and unwavering hope.

This summer brought needed debate and consideration of what it will take to keep Tennessee’s children safe, with some initial steps taken. Like your sorrow, the work continues from here.

We have been where you are now. Your unimaginable grief echoes throughout our hearts, mingled with our own ever-present grief from the death of our children in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Though a decade of time separates our tragedies, the heartbreak endures. In our shared sorrow, please remember that you are not alone – a collective heartache envelops your community and our entire nation, bound together by the horrific experience of preventable gun violence and loss.

We encourage you not to feel disheartened

There are often two emotions that transcend grief: anger and hope. The more powerful one in times like these must be hope.

When Gov. Bill Lee first called for a special legislative session to pursue public safety measures following the Covenant School shooting, we shared your hope.

Hope that responsible gun owners, parents, young people, and legislators would come together to pass practical solutions to curb gun violence and help protect children, families, and communities from enduring what we have.

We understand the deep desire to see lawmakers take immediate and reasonable steps.

And we understand what it feels like when this does not happen right away.

We will not be disheartened, and we encourage you not to be.

Small steps show common ground exists

Amid the challenges of the special session, the General Assembly took some steps on secure storage. The measures passed will help to make safes, locks, and safety devices more accessible to gun owners, alongside necessary education to keep firearms out of reach when not in use.

These small steps are evidence that common ground exists, and when there is common ground, however small, there is room to build on. Because there is still much work to be done if we are to protect our children and prevent gun violence.

Remember that you and your loved ones are not just victims of a cruel tragedy; you are powerful advocates. You have a unique and powerful voice that can demand change and galvanize communities and policymakers alike. As we did when launching Sandy Hook Promise, it is possible to turn unbearable pain into meaningful action, providing a future where children can be safe to be children, without fearing for their lives.

Your children’s lives, though tragically cut short, can be a catalyst driving towards safer schools, homes, and communities for all children in Tennessee – and provide a beacon of hope for other states, communities, and families.

Do not let the final season be the final word

We hope you are able to channel your grief and any lingering frustration into continuing to advocate for meaningful gun violence prevention measures, including firearm access policies that bridge mental health support for people in lawful possession of firearms and comprehensive school safety reforms.

In the modern-day trajectory of gun violence, people in lawful possession of guns are using them to commit violence with increasing frequency. Your voices will play a central role in ensuring that measures capable of preventing gun violence – connecting people to help before tragedy can strike – are as commonplace as those designed to help society respond to it.

Do not let the special session be the final word. Work with your lawmakers to pursue impactful solutions for Tennessee. Carefully consider the policies that emerged and use them as a springboard for the next stage of your legislative advocacy, hopes, and vision.

You have the power to shape the legacy of your children. Let their legacy be a force for positive transformation in Tennessee and beyond.

As fellow grieving parents and advocates, we stand with you now and always, with our unwavering promise: to create a world where all children are free from school shootings.

Sandy Hook Promise is working to promote gun safety and mental health in Tennessee.