Know the signs of gun violence

Video released by Sandy Hook Promise.

Libby Cooper, Staff Writer

    Last Friday, an organization known as Sandy Hook Promise released an eye-opening video that shows just how easy it is to overlook prominent signs of gun violence.

    The beginning half of the video depicts the budding friendship between Evan and a mysterious girl who replies to his messages on the library table. They communicate via scribbles on a desk back and forth to one another, neither of them knowing who the other is. Towards the middle of the video, Evan discovers the true identity of the girl writing back to him, only for a student to unexpectedly burst through the school doors with a gun in hand shortly after.

    The intended message for this video is that when people are preoccupied with other things and are unobservant of their surroundings, they can miss the warning signs of students possibly planning to hurt themselves or others. The video states that “while you were watching Evan, another student was showing signs of planning a shooting.” This video accumulated over 7 million views.

    SHP was formed in response to the tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. When 20 year old Adam Lanza fatally shot six school staff members and 20 students ages 6-7, it left the nation shocked and devastated. As police first began responding to the scene, Lanza committed suicide. He also shot and killed his own mother prior to his attack.

    This reign of terror sparked a whole new level of motivation amongst outraged American citizens to either place restrictions on gun purchases and ownerships or to outlaw guns completely. President Obama immediately took action, but was unable to pass any amendments or reforms regarding the matter. The topic remains highly controversial amid the opinionated population.

    SHP is a nonpartisan national nonprofit organization that was formed by several family members who lost loved ones four years ago in the elementary school shooting. Their sole purpose is to prevent gun violence before it occurs, in turn preventing other parents from experiencing the traumatic loss of a child.

    According to SHP’s Know The Signs Guide, 80 percent of school shooters tell someone about their violent plans prior to the event. The same source states that 70 percent of students who commit suicide gave a warning or indication beforehand. This suggests that oftentimes, eminent signs can be easily overlooked, leading to devastating outcomes.

    The main signs of people who are at risk of harming themselves or others include being over aggressive or lacking self control, behavioral risks or mental illness, threatening behavior such as bragging about an upcoming attack, chronic social isolation and antisocial behavior. It is strongly stressed that if anyone is to witness these warning signs or even one definite threat, they should take it seriously and alert authorities immediately.

    There is so much emphasis placed on such a pertinent problem, but there is yet to be a successful change. Although no impactful laws have been passed to significantly decrease the intensity of America’s gun violence issue, people all over the nation have been taking matters into their own hands by holding protests and creating their own associations that are similar to SHP.

    SHP has been taking action as well. They have put together four programs known as “Know The Signs Programs,” each of which teaches people of all ages how to identify warning signs and get help for other individuals before they hurt others or themselves. The programs include Say Something, Start With Hello, Safety Assessment and Intervention and Youth Mental Health First Aid.

    Say Something focuses on how to recognize a person’s possible warning signs, especially within social media, and how to say something to an official or trusted adult before it’s too late.

    Start With Hello pays particular attention to methods of minimizing potential warning behaviors such as social isolation, marginalization and rejection by reaching out and involving at-risk individuals in an inclusive community before they partake in possibly destructive actions.

    Safety Assessment and Intervention teaches adults how to assess and respond to violent threats or at-risk behavior. This program also specifies that it not only addresses the direct threat, but also helps to identify and treat the underlying issue that lead the at-risk individual to make the threat.

    Lastly, Youth Mental Health First Aid educates adults on how to recognize the warning signs and to get help for youth who may be in a mental health crisis.

    Thus far, SHP has trained over 1.5 million people all across the country with these programs. They offer and deliver their four programs to schools and youth organizations at no cost. All a school or community has to do to bring these gratuitous programs to them is to simply contact SHP at their email [email protected].

    With these programs, this organization has helped stop school shootings, multiple suicide and firearm threats, as well as get mental health assistance to those who need it.

    For example, as quoted directly from the Know The Signs Guide, “Within days of participating in Say Something, a student made an anonymous tip to report that there was a loaded weapon on the school campus. The police intervened, found the loaded weapon and made 4 arrests, preventing a tragedy before it took place. Say Something works.”

    Gun violence is a serious issue in America, and will continue to be until genuine and diligent efforts are made to put an end to it. Until then, the best anyone can do is to always be on the lookout for warning signs and at-risk individuals. Take every potential threat seriously and don’t hesitate to contact law enforcement, school officials, or mental health professionals.