NEWTOWN, Conn. — Over the weekend, as anti-gun violence advocates celebrated passage of the “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act” one year ago, at least 38 people were killed or injured in mass shootings across eight states. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have now been 328 mass shootings this year, underscoring the need for additional policies and programs to stem the gun violence epidemic.
The “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act,” which was the first significant gun safety legislation passed in decades, included enhanced background checks for buyers under the age of 21, partially closing the dating loophole (aka the “boyfriend” loophole), funding to support states in implementing temporary transfer orders (aka extreme risk protection orders or “red flag” laws), and additional funding for mental health services and school safety.
Mark Barden, co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund and father of Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, and Nicole Hockley, co-founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise Foundation and mother of Dylan, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, were both instrumental in bringing together members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to pass the law.
“Lawmakers — including Connecticut Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas — chose protecting children and communities over partisan politics,” said Barden. “We worked side-by-side with them to find common ground so Senate leaders could negotiate the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.”
Sandy Hook Promise played a prominent role in passing the legislation. Barden and others in the organization worked closely with members of Congress and congressional staff to find common ground on gun safety measures and support increases for youth mental health and wellbeing. Barden and Hockley met with 17 senators — from both sides of the aisle — to build support for a compromise bill.
“I am so grateful to my friends at Sandy Hook Promise, who, despite 10 years of setbacks and frustrations, never gave up. Today would not be possible if it weren’t for the strength of this movement and the tireless efforts of every survivor, family member, and advocate to end our nation’s epidemic of gun violence,” said Sen. Murphy, at a White House event last summer, celebrating passage of the law.
While the law was passed in the weeks after the Uvalde school shooting, Sandy Hook Promise had been laying the groundwork for pieces of the bill for years, including being in close conversation with a small group of bipartisan Senators about ways to strengthen the federal background check system back in 2021.
Early in 2022, Sandy Hook Promise partnered with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (now the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions) to work with House and Senate appropriations committee members to include a pilot program in FY23 federal funding to support state implementation of Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPOs) (aka “red flag” laws). That work was the foundation for the $750 million included for State Crisis Intervention Programs included in the “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.”
Sandy Hook Promise also worked with partners in the mental health community. As a result, 100 organizations signed a letter in support of the bill. Sen. Cornyn referenced the letter on the Senate floor in his remarks before the bill’s passage. There were more than 100,000 messages and 100,000+ calls, in support of the bill, to members of Congress from Sandy Hook Promise supporters.
Since the law was enacted, the organization has been busy working toward the next step forward on gun safety. Barden, Hockley, and staff look forward to bipartisan efforts to expand protections with reforms like secure storage, continuing to strengthen the background check system, and address the marketing of firearms to kids.
“Our hearts go out to those who were irrevocably impacted by gun violence over the weekend. These most recent tragedies remind us that the ‘Bipartisan Safer Communities Act’ was a good start — but there is so much more to do,” said Barden. “Every day, communities in America are victimized by gun violence. Our federal, state, and local elected officials must implement and expand proven, common-sense reforms to prevent gun violence and save lives.”
The Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund (SHPAF) is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization committed to protecting all children from gun violence in schools, homes, and communities. The SHP Action Fund advances a holistic policy platform that promotes gun safety, youth mental health, and violence prevention education. The organization works at the state and federal level to pass nonpartisan legislation through inclusive partnerships, diverse grassroots education, and community mobilization. It is part of Sandy Hook Promise, founded and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. Learn more at actionfund.sandyhookpromise.org.
Aimee Thunberg | [email protected] | 646-761-5579