Mark Barden, whose son Daniel died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, writes about the devastation from gun violence — and how to prevent it

By Mark Barden
November 16, 2018 03:40 PM
Courtesy Mark Barden

Editor’s note: Mark Barden’s son, Daniel, was among the 20 students killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. Following the mass shooting last week at the Borderline Bar in Thousand Oaks, California, Barden wrote the following piece about the continued devastation from such violence — and how to prevent it from happening again.

Before my 7-year-old son Daniel was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, I was a touring musician who played mostly country music in just about every state in the U.S. and Canada. I am devastated by the news of the horrific incident at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, the latest in a wave of preventable gun violence scarring our nation.

Venues like the Borderline are meant to be respites from our busy lives; a safe place to relax, savor good music and unwind with loved ones. With mass shootings in recent weeks in a house of worship, a yoga studio and a bar — not to mention the hundreds of other shootings across the U.S. in 2018 — I am beginning to think there are no safe places left in this country.

When my little Daniel, 19 of his classmates and six of his educators were mercilessly gunned down in (what should have been) their safe place, I left my music career behind to devote my life to gun violence prevention. I co-founded Sandy Hook Promise so no other parent would have to endure the unimaginable pain of losing a child to gun violence.

We train kids and adults to “Know the Signs” to properly identify, assess and get help for anyone exhibiting at-risk behaviors. As the details continue to unfold, it is becoming increasingly clear that this shooter exhibited what our research has proven to be several classic warning signs:

• He was acting irate and irrational during a disturbance at his home earlier this year

• Responding authorities believed he was suffering from symptoms related to PTSD

• He reportedly posted on social media referencing thoughts of violence

RELATED VIDEO: Return to Newtown — How 26 Sandy Hook Victims Live on in Hearts & Work of Their Families

While we must grieve the senseless loss of 12 innocent lives in Thousand Oaks, we must transform our collective agony into action now to ensure the safety of all public spaces:

1. Talk to your legislators to demand sustainable gun violence prevention efforts at the local and national levels.

2. Push for Extreme Risk Protection Orders, a bipartisan policy that temporarily separates at-risk individuals from firearms. For states with ERPOs, push to fund awareness for these lifesaving laws.

3. Make the Promise at and “Know the Signs” of a person in crisis and how to intervene before a tragedy can happen.

Gun violence is preventable. After exhaustive research, we know that just one intervention made by an individual who is trained to “Know the Signs” can have many lasting, positive outcomes — including preventing suicides and preventing mass shootings.

We have saved lives already with our programs and can save countless more. By pushing for prevention and intervention programs and policies, we can ensure no other families have to endure the never-ending heartbreak of losing a loved one this way.