‘Sandy Hook Promise’ Releases Graphic ‘Back To School’ PSA

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In a world where sales of bulletproof backpacks have risen, nothing should shock us anymore. 

Still, a newly released “back to school” PSA by anti-gun violence group Sandy Hook Promise, connected to the Sandy Hook massacre, is a dose of reality many aren’t ready for but need to watch anyway. 

“We don’t want people to turn away from it, so pretending it doesn’t exist is not helping to solve it,” Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son, Dylan, was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, told NBC’s “Today” show when the minute-long video titled “Back-To-School Essentials” debut. 

While it may begin as an ordinary back to school video, showing smiling children adorned in their school gear, it quickly takes a turn and shows a boy running down a school hallway boasting about how his new sneakers “are just what I needed for the new year.” 

Gunshots can be heard blaring in the background as other students dive to dodge the bullets. 

It goes on to show a little girl tying her new red jacket on the school doors as a makeshift lock, and a boy using his skateboard as a tool to break through the classroom window. 

In the next scene, a girl and boy stand on opposite sides of a classroom door armed with color pencils and scissors ready to attack. 

Each scene grows darker until the video culminates with a girl crying in a bathroom stall as she text, “I love you mom.”

With tears falling down her face, she looks at the camera and says, “I finally got my own phone to stay in touch with my mom.” 

The sound of the door opening and the approaching footsteps as the girl balls up while kneeling in a bathroom stall is the last scene before the final words appear on the screen, “It’s back to school time and you know what that means. School shootings are preventable when you know the signs.”

“At the end, the girl with the phone gets me every time,” Hockley said.  

Hockley spoke to NBC on behalf of the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, a national non-profit organization, which she co-founded and is acting managing director, and which is led by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. 

The mass shooting in Newtown, CT, left 28 people dead, including 20 students between the ages of 5 and 10, and six adults.

“SHP’s mission is to create a culture engaged in preventing shootings, violence, and other harmful acts in schools,” as described on the Foundation’s website, adding that it “supports sensible program and policy solutions that address the ‘human side’ of gun violence by preventing individuals from ever getting to the point of picking up a firearm to hurt themselves or others.”   

Unlike her son Dylan, Hockley’s older son, Jake, survived the shooting and is now a high school sophomore, NBC reports.

It’s not the first time the Foundation has released provocative PSA’s with in-your-face-messaging. 

In 2017, they released “Tomorrow’s News” and the following year was the “Point of View” PSA, which features an angry boy with a firearm shouting, “Look at me!”  

So far, the latest PSA, which was released Wednesday (September 18) has been seen on YouTube 1,285,038 times. 

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