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Sensible gun safety measures could have saved lives in St. Louis

NEWTOWN, Conn. — Earlier this week, three people were killed (including the shooter) and seven injured in a shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis, Missouri. In 2022, there have already been 40 school shootings in the U.S., the highest number since tracking began, according to Education Week. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the U.S. is averaging nearly two mass shootings per day; more than 300 so far this year.

As the investigation continues, key warning signs have emerged that preceded the attack:

  • The shooter felt “isolated and alone” and disconnected from the school community.
  • Police were called to the shooter’s home for a “domestic disturbance” when the shooter’s mother found a firearm in the home and tried to have it removed.
  • The shooter’s family struggled to get him mental health care.
  • A notebook was left behind with writings about his desire to conduct a school shooting.

Taken individually, warning signs may not directly correlate to a mass shooting, but those exhibited by the 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 with immediate action to get help.

Reversing the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our nation requires a holistic approach that combines (1) community awareness of warning signs combined with the tools and training to know how to effectively intervene, (2) research on root causes and effective prevention strategies, and (3) sensible gun safety policy.

“The family tried hard to get help and to remove the firearm from the shooter’s possession,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise and father of Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. “Because of inadequate background check laws, easy access to semi-automatic weapons with high-capacity magazines and the lack of an extreme risk protection order (ERPO) law in Missouri, the shooter was able to legally obtain the semi-automatic rifle that he used to kill and maim.”

Gun violence prevention should not be a partisan issue. Proven, evidence-based policies that help prevent mass shootings include:

Extreme Rise 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 ensuring communities know when and how to use this vital, life-safety tool.

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.

“There are at least three things that public officials can do now to help stop the next school shooting,” said Barden. “Implement extreme risk protection orders, expand background checks and restrict the sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines like the Central Visual and Performing Arts High School shooter used.”


About the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund: The Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) Action Fund 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.  

Media Contact:

Aimee Thunberg | [email protected] | 646-761-5579