Five years ago, in the early morning hours of Dec. 14, 2012, a gunman shot and killed 20 children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Since then, little has been done on the federal level to prevent this kind of massacre from happening in the future, and just over a month ago, another mass shooter killed 59 people in Las Vegas. While it's easy to feel helpless in the wake of these kinds of tragedies, there are ways you can take action on the 5-year Sandy Hook anniversary.
One way to address gun violence is by donating to a gun reform group like the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence or Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. You can also contribute to States United to Prevent Gun Violence, an umbrella organization that represents state-specific groups that combat gun violence. While there hasn't been much progress at the federal level, there have been 210 laws enacted at the state level to strengthen gun safety since Sandy Hook, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Other gun reform groups include the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and Americans for Responsible Solutions.
There are ways to support victims of gun violence as well, by volunteering at one of many violence support groups across the country. Donating time and money to the Gun Violence Survivors Foundation is another option. The organization doesn't participate in the gun control legislation debate, but does work to provide resources and services "addressing specific needs facing a survivor of gun violence in America," according to the group's site. Christopher Hayes founded the organization after the Sandy Hook massacre rehashed vivid memories of his friend Bryan, who he'd lost to gun violence while in college. "As news of the events at Sandy Hook unfolded, I considered the uncertainty and the fragility of our lives," Hayes wrote in a statement.
There are also particular gun laws that experts say are more likely to reduce mass shooting deaths, for instance a three-day waiting period and an assault weapons ban. It's important to know which politicians have been vocally pro-strict gun regulation, and which ones are taking money from the National Rifle Association and are more likely to vote against even common-sense gun laws. You can also support the 14 volunteers trained by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America who are running for office in 2018.
Another great organization to support is the Sandy Hook Promise. The group is comprised of parents who lost children in the massacre five years ago. They provide free training to schools and youth programs in order to educate students about recognizing early signs of violence. "No one should ever lose a child in these kinds of circumstances, especially when it's preventable," Nicole Hockley, who lost her 6-year-old son in the shooting, told PBS. "We want to prevent other tragedies from happening by teaching people to know the signs of violence."
There are also groups dedicated to providing mental health resources to youth, like the National Organization for Youth Safety and the National Resource Center for Mental Health Promotion & Youth Violence Prevention. By volunteering with these organizations, you can help provide resources and technical assistance to states and local communities that foster well-being and prevent youth violence. In addition, via the site Mentor, you can access a national database of youth mentoring programs where you can work with children in your community.
And beyond just donating your time and money, you can also check in with your loved ones regularly and speak up if you notice someone exhibiting potential signs of violence. If you're a gun owner, you can make sure you follow firearm safety tips to ensure someone who isn't supposed to access the gun isn't able to. Leading up to a mass shooting, there are signs everywhere, which the Sandy Hook Promise made clear with their latest PSA, "Tomorrow's News," about the next inevitable mass shooting. And it's on all of us to be aware of them and to not give up on this fight, even when it seems hopeless.