“Con­necti­cut ef­fect” still rolling strong

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Opinion -

Sandy Hook Prom­ise, a group of peo­ple dev­as­tated by the un­speak­able tragedy of Dec. 14, 2012 at New­town’s Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary School, has chan­neled its en­ergy into an ef­fec­tive of­fen­sive against gun vi­o­lence. The or­ga­ni­za­tion is an ex­am­ple of de­ter­mi­na­tion to con­vert grief into a pow­er­ful force for change.

Formed af­ter the shoot­ing deaths of 20 chil­dren and six adults on that day, the group has worked hard to ed­u­cate and leg­is­late in the are­nas of gun safety and men­tal health, the two in­ex­tri­ca­bly com­bined fac­tors that con­verged that day in New­town, and, alas, in the count­less mass shoot­ings that have plagued Amer­ica since.

Their in­flu­ence will carry even more weight now in the form of a $500,000 fed­eral grant to Con­necti­cut that the state will use to fur­ther its pro­grams, in­clud­ing how to rec­og­nize and ad­dress red-flag be­hav­ior among young­sters.

The grant will help with teach­ing some 116,000 stu­dents statewide about the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s peer-based vi­o­lence-pre­ven­tion pro­gram.

The money comes from the $100 mil­lion STOP School Vi­o­lence Act — a piece of leg­is­la­tion SHP was in­flu­en­tial in shap­ing — that was signed into law by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in March.

The Dec. 14 tragedy was one that helped gal­va­nize ac­tion not only in Con­necti­cut but across the coun­try to de­mand more at­ten­tion to the is­sue of gun safety and par­tic­u­larly to the avail­abil­ity of semi­au­to­matic weapons — de­signed for the bat­tle­field — to the pub­lic at large.

So force­ful, in fact, were the re­ver­ber­a­tions from Con­necti­cut that a lob­by­ist for the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion in Wis­con­sin said in 2013, “We have a strong agenda com­ing up for next year, but of course a lot of that’s go­ing to be sort of de­layed as the ‘Con­necti­cut ef­fect’ has to sort of go through the process.” Sort of go through the process? Well, the “process” is only get­ting stronger. One of SHP’s pro­grams is called “Know the Signs” and it ed­u­cates young peo­ple on how to iden­tify at-risk peers, sup­port them but also to re­port at-risk be­hav­ior.

Gov. Dan­nel P. Mal­loy, of course, has been front and cen­ter in Con­necti­cut and na­tion­ally as a cham­pion of gun safety. It’s worth not­ing that among even the gov­er­nor’s harsh­est crit­ics there is ad­mi­ra­tion for his ac­tions on that ter­ri­ble De­cem­ber day when it was he who emerged from the school to face par­ents and tell them their chil­dren would not be com­ing home.

On Mal­loy’s watch, Con­necti­cut be­came a leader in gun safety leg­is­la­tion, in­clud­ing the ban­ning of weapons like the one use at Sandy Hook. And he has been an ar­dent sup­porter of SHP.

Ac­cord­ing to the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s web­site, nearly 3.1 mil­lion peo­ple have made the Sandy Hook Prom­ise: “I prom­ise to do all I can to pro­tect chil­dren from gun vi­o­lence by en­cour­ag­ing and sup­port­ing so­lu­tions that cre­ate safer, health­ier homes, schools and com­mu­ni­ties.”

It’s a prom­ise we all should live by.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion (Sandy Hook Prom­ise) is an ex­am­ple of de­ter­mi­na­tion to con­vert grief into a pow­er­ful force for change.

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