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Sandy Hook Promise’s frightening ad featuring kids using back-to-school supplies during a school shooting has quickly become the talk of the internet.
The ad, “Back to School Essentials,” begins with children cheerfully talking about their back-to-school gear.
It takes a darker turn a few seconds in when a boy fleeing down a school hallway says, “These new sneakers are just what I needed for the new year.” Screams and gunshots can be heard in the background. Uttering lines typical of school supply ads, other terrified children use a jacket to tie gym doors closed, a skateboard to bust a window open, brandish scissors and pencils as weapons, and use a sock as a tourniquet for a bleeding classmate.
Near the end, a terrified girl hiding in a bathroom weeps as she texts “I love you mom,” telling the viewer, “I finally got my own phone to stay in touch with my mom.” Then the bathroom door opens and footsteps are heard approaching.
The ad concludes with these words, “It’s back to school time and you know what that means. School shootings are preventable when you know the signs,” and directs viewers to the Sandy Hook Promise website.
Sandy Hook Promise was founded by families of victims of the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The nonpartisan, self-described moderate organization states that its “mission is to create a culture engaged in preventing shootings, violence, and other harmful acts in schools,” by supporting programs and policies “that address the ‘human side’ of gun violence.”
The compelling ad has drawn much attention to that mission. On Twitter, people called it “the most powerful video I have ever seen,” said they were “chilled,” “crying,” and “angry.” Many expressed disgust over America’s inability to affect meaningful reform to prevent school shootings.
Katie Couric tweeted, “Politicians and prominent public figures were among those deeply affected by the ad, which many are calling a public service announcement. 2018 was the deadliest year on record with over 94 incidents of gun violence, including Parkland. This PSA from @sandyhook Promise shows the heartbreaking reality of what students go through and brings attention to Sandy Hook Promise’s impactful Know the Signs programs.”
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed in the Parkland school shooting, said, “This sad and tragic video by my friends @sandyhook must be watched by everyone. Because of gun violence, and normalization of it versus solving it, this is how our children feel today.”
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke responded by calling for a buyback of assault weapons. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said it was “incredibly powerful,” adding, “We don’t have to accept this as normal.” Joe Biden noted that it “captures the physical and emotional consequences of [Senate Republicans’] inaction.”
Fear of gun violence should not be the new #BacktoSchool essential. One cannot watch this @sandyhook PSA without being moved. How many more innocent lives lost before GOP Senate is moved to act?— Lloyd Doggett (@RepLloydDoggett) September 18, 2019
(Note before watching: video includes graphic content related to school shootings). pic.twitter.com/mmPXjKccgg
That new @sandyhook ad is unbelievably powerful. Wow. Chills and heartbreak in every scene.— Jonathan Capehart (@CapehartJ) September 18, 2019
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, there have been at least 142 school shootings since Sandy Hook.
Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.