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Preventing Tragedies Like the Boulder Mass Shooting

Some of the warning signs and policies that can save lives

Newtown, CT — Ten people were shot and killed in a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado on March 21. This latest incident marks the second mass shooting in less than a week, following the deadly rampage across Atlanta and underscoring a deadly trend of increasing gun violence sweeping the nation. 

Gun violence is not inevitable; it’s preventable. “Ending gun violence in America requires a holistic approach to prevention,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, and father of Daniel who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. “We have to speak up and get help when seeing someone is clearly struggling. And also push our leaders to support evidence-based gun safety policy that protects our communities. Neither is enough. We need both to address this public health crisis tearing families apart.”

While the motive behind Monday’s tragedy is still not confirmed, the initial reports released by the Daily Beast and the Associated Press reveal several critical warning signs that the murderer exhibited ahead of carrying out the mass shooting:

Bullying, especially if targeted towards differences in race, religion, gender or sexual orientation
  • The killer is of Syrian descent and was bullied in high school, often being called racist names.
  • The shooter admitted to ‘blacking out’ in high school while violently attacking another student who was bullying him.
Excessive irritability, lack of patience, or becoming angry quickly
  • Other students and educators claimed the assault in high school was unprovoked, that the shooter suddenly attacked the victim from behind and continued to violently assault him 
Increasing social isolation
  • Family members claim he was an outgoing person, but withdrew in high school due to bullying and became very anti-social. 
Bragging about access to guns or weapons
  • The killer showed the AR-15 to a family member two days before the shooting. The family member who described the weapon as a “machine gun”  initially took the gun away. 

Proven Gun Violence Prevention Policies

In addition to taking the above warning signs — and others like them — seriously and getting help immediately, there are proven gun violence prevention policies that help prevent mass murder like what happened in Boulder. 

On the day of the attack, the Boulder Police Department received multiple calls about the murderer — including one about him being armed with a black AR-15 and (possibly) wearing body armor. The affidavit released this week confirmed that a family member was concerned about him “playing with a machine gun” with “a bullet stuck in the gun” days before the shooting.

Many states (including Colorado) offer families the option of temporarily transferring firearms from persons on the brink of crisis.  Policies like this (aka “red flag” laws, ERPOs, or CARR) help prevent suicide and gun-related violence while protecting an individual’s 2nd Amendment rights. It is critical that states invest in ensuring residents know when and how to use this vital, life-safety tool. 


About Sandy Hook Promise: Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a national nonprofit organization with a mission to end school shootings and create a culture change that prevents violence and other harmful acts that hurt children. Through its life-saving, evidence-informed Know the Signs prevention programs, SHP educates and empowers youth and adults to recognize, intervene, and get help for individuals who may be socially isolated and/or at risk of hurting themselves or others. Through nonpartisan policy and partnerships, SHP advances gun safety, youth mental health, and violence prevention education at the state and federal levels that protect all children from gun violence in their schools, homes, and communities. 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.  Learn more at

Media Contact: 

Aimee Thunberg, Senior Director, Communications, Sandy Hook Promise | [email protected] | 646-761-5579