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Remembering Columbine: 5 Trends In Gun Violence Prevention And 5 Things You Can Do To Help

Stop Gun Violence Protest Sign

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The tragic mass shooting that claimed the lives of 12 students and a teacher and wounded more than 20 others in a previously unheard-of school and town – Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado – is considered by many as the unofficial start of the gun violence prevention movement in the U.S.   

Since the tragedy occurred on April 20, 1999, dozens of other towns and schools have been added to an unforgettable list – including our own Newtown, Connecticut. Thousands of family members and friends across the country still feeling the far-reaching ripple effects of mass and school shootings.  

The popular assertion “and still nothing has changed” echoes throughout the media on every remembrance and yet, though it might not often feel that way, immense progress has been made.  

We at Sandy Hook Promise are only here and able to do this work to honor our loved ones because of the families, students, and activists from Columbine that laid the foundation for the modern gun violence prevention movement. 

Truly, much has changed since Columbine.  

We now have a nationwide, youth-led movement for gun violence prevention that is saving lives because of the tireless efforts of families and survivors of Columbine, Newtown, Parkland, Uvalde, Covenant, and countless others.

In Colorado, more than 56,000 people are supporting Sandy Hook Promise’s gun violence prevention movement, including nearly 400 Promise Leader volunteers who help raise awareness and engage community members.

Here, we look back at the progress the movement has made in honor of those we have lost, and what you can do to get involved and add your voice to protect our kids and stop gun violence.  

1. Survivor Movement Takes Root And Gains Strength:

  • Tom Mauser’s son Daniel, who was 15 years old and in 10th grade, was killed at Columbine High School in 1999. He, among many others, began to pave the way for other parents and families who have since become survivors of gun violence. Just days after the shooting at Columbine, Tom carried a sign at a local protest with a photo of his son Daniel and the words, “My son Daniel died at Columbine. He’d expect me to be here today.” Tom told those who attended, “If my son Daniel was not one of the victims, he would be here with me today.” 
  • Now, in a much more connected world, and with dozens of communities suffering similar school or mass shootings, survivors, and activists have found hope and healing in each other. Survivors have worked on state and federal policy initiatives, passed Universal Background Checks and Extreme Risk Protection Orders in dozens of states, and are carrying on the legacies of their lost loved ones by making our communities and schools safer. 4 Columbine survivors sat down with 4 survivors from Parkland to talk about their work, navigating loss, and to offer support for the long road ahead.  
  • The Teenage Dream PSA launched, jump-starting critical conversations about gun violence prevention and school safety.
  • School shooting survivors bravely tell their stories, sharing how their teenage years were impacted by the trauma of surviving a school shooting.

2. The Youth Voice Continues to Grow: 

3. Activists Push Policy Changes That Save Lives Nationwide: 

  • The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act was passed in 2022, ensuring $10 million for youth suicide prevention. The act also makes more available lethal means storage for families, which helps to keep young people safe from harm. 
  • In 2022, Congress passed a monumental bill addressing gun violence in America. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act goes further than any federal legislation has in almost 30 years.
  • The bipartisan Suicide Training and Awareness Nationally Delivered for Universal Prevention (STANDUP) Act of 2021 encourages states and tribes to implement and expand evidence-based suicide prevention training in schools.
  • At the state level, policies have been enacted to address gun safety, including background checks and extreme risk protection orders, mental health, including suicide prevention and active school shooter simulation bans, and violence prevention, including model school safety legislation and the STOP School Violence Act. Learn more about state policy progress.

4. Gun Violence Prevention Programs Become Best Practice in Schools Nationwide: 

  • Less than one year after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Sandy Hook Promise partners with threat assessment experts to develop four, evidence-based Know the Signs programs designed to help youth and adults recognize the warning signs of violence toward oneself or others, and act immediately to get help and prevent tragedy. To date, more than 23 million people have participated in these programs in 24,000+ schools across all 50 states. 
  • In March of 2018, the federal government passed the Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act. Sandy Hook Promise partnered with Democrats and Republicans to write and pass this legislation that allots millions of dollars in funding for states and school districts to implement violence prevention and intervention programs, suicide education, anonymous reporting systems, and more. 
  • Pennsylvania becomes the first state to require anonymous reporting tools be available for every middle and high school student. 
  • Threat assessment teams and preparedness drills have become the evolving approach to school safety, while more and more schools are taking an even more holistic approach by using these in conjunction with violence prevention programs like Know the Signs from Sandy Hook Promise.   

5. Business Leaders Commit to Ending Gun Violence in America, Funding Awareness and Advocacy Efforts:  

  • The Walt Disney Company helped support the expansion of the youth violence prevention program Start with Hello. CEO Robert A. Iger, a strong supporter of gun reform and creating safer communities for America’s children, was recently honored at Sandy Hook Promise’s 10 Year Remembrance.
  • “As business leaders with power in the public and political arenas, we simply cannot stand by silently when it comes to the issues that threaten the very fabric of the communities where we live and work,” wrote Chip Bergh, Levi Strauss & Co. president and CEO, in an op-ed for Fortune. “While taking a stand can be unpopular with some, doing nothing is no longer an option.” The company commits more than $1 million to nonprofits and youth activists advocating for gun reform.
  • Taking a stance in the gun violence debate represents a radically different approach for the TOMS shoe company, who announced $5 million in funding for gun violence prevention.  In CEO Blake Mycoskie’s mind, it’s in line with the company’s original mission. “This is a human issue,” he says. “It’s become political, but ending gun violence is about making a better world, which is what we’ve always been about.” 

5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Help End Gun Violence 

1. Take Action 

  • Learn about gun safety issues and take action on what matters most to you. Explore the issues. 

2. Engage on Social Media

  • Follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram and YouTube for the latest updates, stories, and breaking news. When online, avoid engaging with hateful comments and keep your platform positive. 

3. Learn the Warning Signs

  • At Columbine High School, the shooters exhibited warning signs leading up to the massacre. Recognizing these signs and speaking up saves lives. 

4. Safeguard your Local Schools

  • Does your local school have a community safety plan to ensure policies are in place to protect students? Learn more and get involved in your local community.

5. Make the Promise

  • Join us in promising to protect children: “I promise to do all I can to protect children from gun violence by encouraging and supporting solutions that create safer, healthier homes, schools and communities.”

We can prevent shootings and keep our children and families safe, but it will take each and every one of our voices.  

Decades of work by families from Littleton and other communities across the country have shown us that gun violence prevention work is not hopeless, and we are not helpless. Honor those we have lost and those we can still save by keeping these families close to your heart on this difficult remembrance, and by adding your voice to the movement to protect our kids from gun violence.