NEWTOWN, Conn. — Last night, 18-year-old Shawn Jackson (a graduating student) and his 36-year-old father, Renzo Smith, were killed and five others were wounded in a mass shooting following the Huguenot High School graduation, at a theater in Richmond, Virginia. It is the latest in the growing number of school shootings and increasing gun violence in the U.S. There were 46 school shootings in 2022, more than in any year since Columbine (1999). According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have already been more than 260 mass shootings in 2023.
In response to yesterday’s shooting, Nicole Hockley, co-founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise and mother of Dylan, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, issued the following statement:
“Our hearts are heavy for the families and friends of the victims of this latest school-related shooting, and for the wider Richmond community. Once again, our nation is traumatized by the reality that gun violence can strike anywhere and at any time, even at a high school graduation. Last night, one student and his father were violently murdered, ending a young man’s life on what was supposed to be the beginning of his journey into adulthood. Instead of planning for his future, his family must now arrange the funerals of both a father and son. I know that horror and grief; it never ends.
“Each and every mass shooting impacts every community across the country and strikes fear as we all wonder if our loved ones or our community will be next. Along with the fear is our collective frustration and outrage. When will we finally address this gun violence epidemic? How many more must die before we take action?
“Undisputed evidence shows that gun violence is preventable. Yet, instead of using the solutions available to us like secure storage, temporary transfer orders, and teaching warning signs of someone at risk of hurting themselves or others, we move into debate, rhetoric, and making excuses about why ‘now isn’t the time.’ For the two people killed yesterday, it is long past time; indeed, it’s too late.
“Our national trauma, anger and fear must embolden our resolve to take action to end these violent acts. We must reject the notion that gun violence is inevitable and embrace the fact that it is preventable. Most importantly, we must be courageous and take action. We must use our voices to demand that our elected officials act now.
“My heart has broken so many times in the last 10 years that it is shattered beyond repair. With my increasing despair, my anger swells at the cowards and profiteers who stand in the way of stopping gun violence. To those public officials and elected leaders who continually choose to remain on the sidelines, I ask you to look toward the future and imagine how history will judge those who failed to use their power to save the lives of innocent children.”
Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) envisions a future where all children are free from school shootings and other acts of violence. As a national nonprofit organization, SHP’s mission is to educate and empower youth and adults to prevent violence in schools, homes, and communities. Creators of the life-saving, evidence-informed “Know the Signs'' prevention programs, SHP teaches the warning signs of someone who may be in crisis, socially isolated, or at-risk of hurting themselves or others and how to get help. SHP also advances school safety, youth mental health, and responsible gun ownership at the state and federal levels through nonpartisan policy and partnerships. SHP is led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.