Editor’s Note: Oscar winner Laura Dern is executive producer of Oscar-shortlisted animated short If something happens i love you, which depicts a couple trying to get around their daily lives after their daughter’s death during a school shoot – while devastating, the film also instills hope. Dern and Sandy Hook Promise co-founder Nicole Hockley wrote a column for Deadline exploring our current moment in the face of continued gun violence in America.
When there is a school shooting and children are killed, we cry. We send thoughts and prayers. We come together in common mourning. We honor lives taken too soon and demand action. Then we quickly become more divided over how to create meaningful change that will prevent such a senseless loss, whether it’s increased mental health support or less access to guns.
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And then, all too often, we just move on. Until the cycle begins again. But how often do we view devastation as permanent? The family, forever mourning the loss of a child who is and an adult who never will be. Parents, stuck in a never-ending cycle of grief, who either find a way together or find the pain of losing a child overwhelms them and leaves them broken. These are the endless and incomprehensible ripples felt by those who live the unimaginable. This is why they are called the club that no one wants to join. But tragically, their ranks continue to grow.
It is essential to open an honest conversation about grieving, something impossible to share in simple words, but still as universal as the emotions come. Fear and anguish are indelible for these parents. It stays with them. It should stay with all of us.
When Sandy Hook Promise was launched in the weeks following the murder of Nicole’s beautiful butterfly Dylan in her freshman class, she vowed to be part of the solution, to prevent gun violence, to protect children. and deliver a future where no parent would. never feel like she does every day. More than 12 million people have participated in the organization’s “Know The Signs” school violence and firearms prevention programs, which have prevented thousands of harmful acts and more than 50 shootings in schools.
But that is not enough.
Today there are more guns in homes than ever before in American history. In 2020, 23 million firearms were sold, surpassing the 2016 record sales of 15.4 million. The year also saw more than 600 mass shootings – the highest number on record since we started monitoring in 2014. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been fewer school shootings this year. years, but violence persists, at home and in communities. Since the start of this year, there have been 47 mass shootings and nearly 200 children killed in acts of gun violence.
On January 6, our lawmakers experienced firsthand the moment of fear when you must hide for your life behind a desk, be kicked out of a room, or otherwise escape an encounter with an armed individual with intent. to cause harm. Their families watched the TV screens at home with their hearts stopped, horror in their eyes, desperate to know that their loved one would walk through their door alive. And this crippling fear is all too common for our children, those who have experienced a school shooting before, and for all the students who are now undergoing active shooting practice due to the ever-increasing risk.
The events of January 6 should never have happened. But if there is a silver lining to this horrific event, let it be, finally, a spark of empathy from our lawmakers, the smallest glimpse into the tragic experiences of children and parents across the country.
Gun violence is still a national epidemic and the warning signs for the future are clear. When our children return to their classrooms, their lives will be in danger again. We cannot allow this cycle to continue. All children should be safe in school, and no parent should experience the devastation many endure when a child is killed by a gun. Protecting children and ending school shootings are goals we can all agree on. By setting aside political agendas and rhetoric, we can be united and take decisive action. The events of the past few weeks can and should bring us all to the table.
Let’s start with our most basic common belief: Everyone deserves to live a life free from fear of gun violence.