This story was originally published on Dec. 2. To mark the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting, it is being republished.
Sandy Hook Promise, an organization devoted to protecting children from gun violence that was launched in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, has issued a powerful public service announcement urging people to look for warning signs of potential shooters.
In the Dec. 2 PSA, part of the organization’s “Know the Signs” campaign, viewers are introduced to Evan, a typical teenager, trying to find summer love as the school year winds down. We see Evan scratch “I am bored” into a desk in his school’s library, and he returns the next day to find a response from a female student.
Evan and the mystery girl scratch flirtatious messages back and forth, and Evan tries to find out who his secret pen pal is. On the final day of school, as yearbooks are being passed around for signatures, Evan’s chat partner recognizes his handwriting and reveals herself. But while she does, an ominous figure emerges through a door in the background, drops a large duffel bag, and cocks an assault rifle.
Viewers are then shown a shortened version of the same PSA: The message is that while viewers were distracted by Evan’s romance, they neglected the warning signs of a male student in the background who reads gun-enthusiast magazines, searches for gun videos on YouTube, and is bullied in the school’s halls. Towards the end of the PSA, viewers see the male student make a menacing gesture towards his teacher after receiving a poor test grade.
Text appears in the ad: “While you were watching Evan, another student was showing signs of planning a shooting. But no one noticed.”
The ad says, “Gun violence is preventable when you know the signs.”
“The PSA demonstrates how easy it is for one to overlook the signs of an at-risk individual demonstrating signs of violence, particularly gun violence, and that when one knows the signs, it can be prevented,” says a statement from Sandy Hook Promise.
The organization hopes the PSA will teach people how to recognize someone exhibiting at-risk behaviors and empower them to intervene.
Sandy Hook Promise states that 80 percent of school shooters and 70 percent of individuals who killed themselves told someone of their violent plans prior to taking action — yet nobody intervened.