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‘Know the Signs’ could have saved lives in Nashville

Shooter exhibited warning signs, but no intervention happened before the shooting

Newtown, Conn. — On Monday, three students and three adult school employees were killed during a shooting at Covenant School, a small, private Christian school in Nashville, Tenn. serving preK-6th grade children. There were 46 school shootings in 2022, more than in any year since Columbine (1999). According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have already been more than 12 deaths and 130 injuries due to mass shootings in 2023.

As the investigation continues, key warning signs have emerged that preceded the attack. The shooter legally purchased seven guns, even though their parents believed that the shooter “should not own weapons.” The shooter reportedly had a history of suicide ideation and reached out to an old middle-school friend with a “suicide note” immediately before entering the school. The friend contacted a suicide prevention hotline and was told to contact police. She contacted police but they failed to arrive at her home to investigate until after the mass shooting.

“In the aftermath of yet another horrific mass shooting, we again learn too late that an alleged shooter had plans and showed warning signs of being at risk of committing violence,” said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise and mother of Dylan, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. “Every person in every community must learn the signs and how to take action to get help; and every community must have systems in place to intervene when someone recognizes the signs and reaches out for help. We know this works, having averted at least 14 credible school shooting plots with our no-cost Know the Signs violence prevention programs.”

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

“Once again, a shooter chose assault weapons, the preferred weapon of mass shooters, to murder children and educators,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund. “What happened in Nashville tells us that we must close the gaps in protections by implementing and strengthening public policy to stop gun violence.”

Proven, evidence-based policies that help prevent mass shootings include:

Extreme Risk Protection Orders
Many states offer families the option of temporarily transferring firearms from persons who may be in crisis. Policies like this (aka “red flag,” ERPOs, or Crisis Aversion and Rights Retention laws) help prevent gun violence and suicide while protecting an individual’s 2nd Amendment rights. It is critical that states that have these in place invest in the implementation of these laws, including education for communities about when and how to use these vital, life-safety tools.

Expanded Background Checks
Closing loopholes in our background checks system would help prevent the sale of firearms to individuals who are prohibited from possessing them. This includes those currently sold “stranger-to-stranger” both online and in person.

Assault Weapons and High-Capacity Magazine Limits
Because there are currently no federal restrictions on the sale of military-style assault rifles nor on the number of rounds they can fire, civilians have been able to purchase these guns to carry out our nation’s deadliest mass shootings. The Sandy Hook shooter fired 154 bullets, killing 20 first-graders and six educators in less than five minutes.

“Gun violence is not inevitable. It is preventable,” said Barden. “Know the signs. Say something. And demand public officials take action now to advance and implement policies that make our schools, homes and communities safer.”


Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) envisions a future where all children are free from school shootings and other acts of violence. As a national nonprofit organization, SHP’s mission is to educate and empower youth and adults to prevent violence in schools, homes, and communities. Creators of the life-saving, evidence-informed “Know the Signs” prevention programs, SHP teaches the warning signs of someone who may be in crisis, socially isolated, or at-risk of hurting themselves or others and how to get help. SHP also advances school safety, youth mental health, and responsible gun ownership at the state and federal levels through nonpartisan policy and partnerships. SHP is led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. 

Media Contact:

Loretta Kane | [email protected] | 917-410-7242