Sandy Hook Dad Responds to Texas School Shooting: 'Sadly, I Know the Unspeakable Pain'

Mark Barden, whose son Daniel died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, urges for "real, meaningful action" as the country mourns the 21 people killed in Uvalde, Texas, last week

Daniel and Mark Barden.

Editor's note: Mark Barden is co-founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund and father of Daniel, one of 20 students killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. In response to the mass shooting last week at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Barden wrote the following piece about the continued devastation from such violence — and how to prevent it from happening again.

On Tuesday, May 24, just before noon, the deadliest school shooting in nearly 10 years took the young lives of 19 Texas elementary school students — each one of them someone's beloved, precious child — and two of their teachers, one described endearingly as "the kind of teacher everybody loved." With that horrific event, yet another wave of grieving parents and families is in profound, unspeakable pain. My own broken heart aches for them because I know and have known that visceral pain since my sweet little Daniel was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Daniel was taken from us right before Christmas. When he left for school on December 14, 2012, our home was filled with holiday cheer and happiness. When we learned that our kind and gentle little boy was killed, our joy turned to unimaginable grief. It's the kind of pain and darkness that cannot be described with words.

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I don't know any words to comfort someone in the hours and days after a child is murdered. I do know that my path to surviving the death of my son has been to honor him through my work. After his death, I made a promise to my sweet little Daniel that I would devote my own life to preventing gun violence so that no other parent would ever have to suffer such unspeakable pain.

I joined together with other families to found Sandy Hook Promise and together we have developed "Know the Signs" education programs and policies to prevent school shootings and gun violence. We can stop the scourge of gun violence by raising community awareness of warning signs that indicate that someone is at risk of harming themself or others and how to intervene. Lives could have been saved in Uvalde if someone had recognized the warning signs exhibited by the shooter and spoken up to get help.

Uvalde victims memorial
Memorial for the 21 victims of the Uvalde school shooting. Elaine Aradillas

We also need sensible gun safety policies, such as extreme risk protection orders, so that when we see warning signs in our loved ones, we can temporarily remove their firearms and connect them to support. And expanded background checks for every gun purchase can help keep firearms out of the hands of those who are prohibited from owning them. We can respect and uphold the second amendment while also protecting our children and communities.

Today, the country wants to comfort the parents of the children who never came home from Robb Elementary School. Our nation is genuinely aching for them, heartbroken by the horror of their children's murders. In the coming weeks and months, our national attention will wane — until the next mass shooting.

We know how to prevent tragedies like the Robb Elementary School shooting — but only if we come together right now to turn the anger and heartbreak of this moment into real, meaningful action. The best way to honor the lives of the children who have been violently taken from us is to act now and not stop until we end this epidemic of violence.

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