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Sandy Hook parents still fight for change 10 years after school shooting

Sandy Hook shooting: 10 years later
A look at what's changed 10 years after Sandy Hook shooting 07:38

Ten years after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the families of the victims are still fighting for change — something one parent started talking about at her child's memorial service. 

"I didn't know what the change would be, but that something would come from this. ... This wouldn't just be a senseless tragedy," said Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was one of 20 kids killed on December 14 ten years ago.

A month after the massacre, which also killed six educators, Hockley helped launch Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit focused on protecting America's children from gun violence. 

The organization's "Know the Signs" program teaches children and adults how to identify at-risk behaviors and intervene. The programs are used in more than 23,000 schools nationwide and have helped stop at least 11 credible planned school shootings in seven states, the group says. 

"This spectrum of violence is an escalating thing. Someone doesn't go straight to suicide or homicide," said Hockley, who is CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation. "So we're focused on what we call upstream violence prevention — how do we, at the earlier end of that scale, intervene and get help."

She works alongside Mark Barden, who is CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund. He also lost his son, Daniel, in the shooting. 

In their efforts, they found an ally in Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who was newly sworn in just weeks after the shooting. He said he has spent the last ten years "trying to rattle" the country into understanding that the gun violence epidemic is a daily occurrence. 

"There are over 100 people dying every single day from suicides, from homicides, from accidental shootings in this country," Murphy said. 

A new study shows the U.S. has reached it highest number of gun deaths in nearly 30 years, with a 20% jump from 2019 to 2021. In the past decade since Sandy Hook, there have been nearly 4,300 mass shootings  — 38 of them at schools. 

One of the school shootings, in Parkland, Florida in 2018, led to a new string of gun control activism and the March for Our Lives campaign. Murphy said the emergence of students as the leaders of the movement is in many ways is "a story of why we have now begun to see success legislatively."

Earlier this year, Congress passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the most significant gun-related legislation in 30 years. It includes enhanced background checks for gun buyers under 21 years old, invests money into mental health resources and provides funding to states for "red flag" laws, which enable authorities to confiscate guns from individuals deemed dangerous. 

"It doesn't solve the epidemic, but it saves thousands of lives," Murphy said. 

There has been change at the state level, too. The number of states requiring background checks on all handgun sales went from 14 to 21. Nineteen states added "red flag" laws and eight states, including Connecticut, have banned assault rifles, which account for more than 85% of mass shooting deaths and was the gun used in the Sandy Hook shooting. 

Barden wants people to understand that his son's life was taken away violently, and then think: "What can I do to be part of the change, to make sure that doesn't happen again?"

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