How Newtown Parents Are Building A Long-Term Legacy And A Model For Cause Groups

Watch parents of Sandy Hook Elementary school students explain the evolution of a social movement on the one-year anniversary of the mass school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Today, on the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, we encourage you to watch "Newtown and Silicon Valley: The Search for Solutions." This video, part of our series of stories presented live on stage at Fast Company events, chronicles the remarkable journey of a group of parents in Newtown, Connecticut.

In the days following the incident, they came together, traumatized by the murder of 20 first-graders and six teachers, but determined to make sense of what made absolutely no sense. They vowed to take strategic and meaningful action. One night, at 2:30 in the morning, one parent, Lee Shull, emailed a call to action. "There's been a lot of talk," he wrote his friends and neighbors. "We need to do something."

Thus began an extraordinary year, in which Sandy Hook Promise, their nonprofit, accomplished far more than survivor groups typically do. "We don't want to do what every other group has done and then expect a different result," Nicole Hockley, whose younger son Dylan was killed at the school, told me.

Sandy Hook Promise, which includes a former marketer at Proctor & Gamble, an IT executive at Dell, and a therapist, avoided the facile anti-gun positions and blame-blanketing that many on both sides of the debate expected of them. These parents had experienced unthinkable gun violence, but they sought out gun owners. Specifically, Republican gun owners who were also parents. "We decided to speak to the toughest group, which is demonized by the gun debate," she says. "They're the same as me. They want to find solutions. They want to protect their children."

Sandy Hook Promise went further, exploring new ground with the Tech Committee to Reduce Gun Violence, a Silicon Valley group started by the prolific angel investor Ron Conway after the Newtown shooting. Last March, the two organizations launched the Sandy Hook Promise Innovation Initiative. It directs venture capital to companies working on potential solutions in smart guns, school safety, big data, and mental illness.

That effort, in turn, inspired an X-Prize-like endeavor, the Smart Tech Firearms Challenge, an open call for ideas that the Smart Tech Foundation announced last month at Fast Company's Innovation Uncensored conference. The foundation is giving grants totaling at least $1 million to inventors and entrepreneurs working on breakthroughs in safe gun technology. The submission process starts in January.

In mid-November, Sandy Hook Promise kicked off Parent Together, a grassroots campaign to rally community groups like their own and address ways to reduce gun violence at the local level. Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, and other social media companies are helping get the word out.

Have these Newtown parents dramatically changed the gun debate? Or overhauled laws throughout the country with the highest rate of gun ownership in the world? Or curtailed gun violence? No—in fact, there was another school shooting Friday in Colorado—but that's an unrealistic expectation for their first year. (They did, however, lobby successfully for tougher new laws in Connecticut.) Social movements—and that's what they're studying and emulating—take time. What they've done, in ways both thoughtful and surprising, is build a foundation for innovation and community organizing around reducing gun violence. It's a promising start.

"We're coming up to the edge of a cliff—the one-year mark," Hockley says in the video. "There's a surge of interest as you approach the day, and then it fades away. I can't let this fade away. After 12/14, we came together as a nation. It's our job to make sure we keep this conversation alive until we find the solutions."

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30 Comments

  • naksuthin

    Here is a list of the mass killings in the US for 2013.
    The FBI defines a mass killing as 4 or more victims not including the killer.

    So the list doesn't include killings of 3 people or less, nor does it include the many innocent victim who were wounded.

    You can see the dates, the states, the weapon used and the motive for the killings

    I tried to do a search for mass killings this year in the other developed counties of the world: England, Canada, Australia, Germany , France, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Spain etc. but I could not find any. All the mass killings happened here in the US, I think.


    12/1/13
    Topeka
    Kan.
    Shooting
    Family killing
    4


    11/23/13
    Tulsa
    Okla.
    Shooting
    Other
    4


    11/7/13
    Jacksonville
    Fla.
    Shooting
    Other
    4


    10/29/13
    Callison
    S.C.
    Shooting
    Family killing
    5


    10/28/13
    Terrell
    Texas
    Shooting
    Other
    5


    10/26/13
    Phoenix
    Ariz.
    Shooting
    Other
    4


    10/26/13
    New York
    N.Y.
    Stabbing
    Family killing
    5


    10/9/13
    Paris
    Texas
    Shooting
    Other
    4


    9/20/13
    Rice
    Texas
    Shooting
    Family killing
    4


    9/16/13
    Washington
    D.C.
    Shooting
    Public Killing
    12


    9/11/13
    Crab Orchard
    Tenn.
    Shooting
    Robbery/burglary
    4


    8/14/13
    Oklahoma City
    Okla.
    Shooting
    Family killing
    4


    8/7/13
    Dallas
    Texas
    Shooting
    Family killing
    4


    7/26/13
    Clarksburg
    W.Va.
    Shooting
    Other
    4


    7/26/13
    Hialeah
    Fla.
    Shooting
    Public Killing
    6


    6/7/13
    Santa Monica
    Calif.
    Shooting
    Public Killing
    5


    5/13/13
    Fernley
    Nev.
    Shooting, Stabbing
    Robbery/burglary
    5


    5/11/13
    Waynesville
    Ind.
    Shooting
    Other
    4


    4/28/13
    Ottawa
    Kan.
    Shooting
    Family killing
    4


    4/24/13
    Manchester
    Ill.
    Shooting
    Family killing
    5


    4/22/13
    Federal Way
    Wash.
    Shooting
    Family killing
    4


    4/18/13
    Akron
    Ohio
    Shooting
    Robbery/burglary
    4


    4/15/13
    Boston
    Mass.
    Blunt force
    Public Killing
    4


    3/13/13
    Herkimer
    N.Y.
    Shooting
    Public Killing
    4


    1/19/13
    Albuquerque
    N.M.
    Shooting
    Family killing
    5


    1/7/13
    Tulsa
    Okla.
    Shooting
    Robbery/burglary
    4

  • broey77

    Let's take away all the freedoms that make America America. We'll end up looking just like China with the top 1% owning everything and feeling secure with no way anyone could ever stand up to them.

    People who use the "1 bad apple ruins the batch" mentality are a bunch of hypocrites anyways. Alcohol kills far more people; yet you don't see anyone talking about revoking the 21st amendment do you? Because Liberals love their wine...

    A simple solution that is, If you are a law abiding citizen of these United States you can drink what you want, smoke what you want, shoot what you want, drive faster then 45mph even (even though car accidents are more then guns kill...)

    But the first time you commit a crime you get all those enhanced freedoms taken away for 10 years. That is a real deterrent. 20 yo will think twice before stealing a car if he knows that he would have to find a friend to buy his smokes for the next 10 years. Jail is a badge of honor these days.

  • naksuthin

    Here's a list of all the mass killings we've had so far this year in the USA.
    I count 26 of them. The FBI considers a mass killing one in which 4 or
    more innocent victims are killed (not including the killer)
    You can see what states they were in.
    You can see what weapons were used.
    You can see the motive
    I did a search for mass killings in the other developed countries of the
    world om 2013: Canada, Australia, England , France , Germany, Japan,
    South Korea....couldn't find any. Looks like they all occurred here in
    the USA

    12/1/13 Topeka Kan. Shooting Family killing 4
    11/23/13 Tulsa Okla. Shooting Other 4
    11/7/13 Jacksonville Fla. Shooting Other 4
    10/29/13 Callison S.C. Shooting Family killing 5
    10/28/13 Terrell Texas Shooting Other 5
    10/26/13 Phoenix Ariz. Shooting Other 4
    10/26/13 New York N.Y. Stabbing Family killing 5
    10/9/13 Paris Texas Shooting Other 4
    9/20/13 Rice Texas Shooting Family killing 4
    9/16/13 Washington D.C. Shooting Public Killing 12
    9/11/13 Crab Orchard Tenn. Shooting Robbery/burglary 4
    8/14/13 Oklahoma City Okla. Shooting Family killing 4
    8/7/13 Dallas Texas Shooting Family killing 4
    7/26/13 Clarksburg W.Va. Shooting Other 4
    7/26/13 Hialeah Fla. Shooting Public Killing 6
    6/7/13 Santa Monica Calif. Shooting Public Killing 5
    5/13/13 Fernley Nev. Shooting, Stabbing Robbery/burglary 5
    5/11/13 Waynesville Ind. Shooting Other 4
    4/28/13 Ottawa Kan. Shooting Family killing 4
    4/24/13 Manchester Ill. Shooting Family killing 5
    4/22/13 Federal Way Wash. Shooting Family killing 4
    4/18/13 Akron Ohio Shooting Robbery/burglary 4
    4/15/13 Boston Mass. Blunt force Public Killing 4
    3/13/13 Herkimer N.Y. Shooting Public Killing 4
    1/19/13 Albuquerque N.M. Shooting Family killing 5
    1/7/13 Tulsa Okla. Shooting Robbery/burglary 4

  • grassroot

    A few armed guards and/or trained armed teachers would do
    wonders. As a perp would never know who and where his
    danger is lurking. Not safe for these types as " gun free zones"
    are.

  • Ravi32

    Exactly. Armed guards are a proven violent crime deterrent in schools. Equal demographic schools with them have less rape, assault and murder.

  • naksuthin

    Or armed guards could make things worse.

    When the Navy shipyard shooter was running low on shotgun shells he went down from his fourth floor vantage point, shot an armed guard in the face ,, took officer's Beretta 9mm semiautomatic pistol. , returned to the fourth floor and continued to kill more victims.

    Sadly The armed guard not only lost his own life but provided the means for the Navy Shipyard shooter to continue his murderous rampage.

  • ButlerianHeretic

    When we have constant media focus on something, we usually get more of it. Companies do massive publicity campaigns to make people aware of their products so people will want those products. The Sandy Hook shooter was obsessed with school shootings, so he did one of his own. There is a massive media blitz about the one-year anniversary of those shootings, and now we get another shooting in Colorado on Friday. When is this going to stop. These people aren't part of the solution, they are part of the problem

  • Robert Riversong

    It's YOUR heartless and ignorant attitude that is the core of the problem. These parents are engaging in the kind of movement building that has always seen success.

  • NameNotGiven

    Robert, you are sick and heartless.
    And these parents are engaging in the same kind of movements we have seen attacking the first Amendment as well as attacking the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

  • Robert Riversong

    You are completely ignorant of what this group is doing. It includes gun owners and people from across the political spectrum, and is doing nothing that in any way targets any constitutional rights.

    In fact, they are working with tech groups to innovate new and better (safer) firearms.

  • Ravi32

    In other words robbert they are in the business of distracting from the real causes of crime. And in the business of the shell game of distracting from the real issues and scapegoating the innocent.

    Perhaps you also want newer limits and controls on the rest of the bill of rights? They all cause death.

    Perhaps the tech groups should innovate new limits on the First Amendment?

  • Ravi32

    Ad hominem. Typical of the desperate science deniers who make up the rabid gun control agenda.

  • Ravi32

    You were busted using debunked studies and denying the CDC report.

    Why do you think you keep losing the gun control debate and some 75 million guns have been sold since Mr. Obama has been elected?

  • tedthornton

    "It's our job to make sure we keep this conversation alive until we find the solutions"

    Toughest gun laws in the nation before, Now, a bunch more that make little sense like having to REGISTER MAGAZINES.

    NO ONE talks about mental health... we HAD everything every special interest group wanted. Universal Background checks? Got 'em. Assault Weapons Ban? It's been here already since the 90's. Mandatory training? Yup. But as soon as you talk about dealing with crazy people having guns, we get people worrying about violating their rights (and for the record, I've never heard this BS coming from any NRA types.)

  • Robert Riversong

    In fact, nearly everyone, including Obama who has allocated $100 million for this, is addressing the mental health issue.

    The rest of your comments are completely false in regard to the US legal landscape, and ONLY uniform federal laws can have a significant effect since guns don't respect municipal or state borders. States and cities are trying to fill in the gaps as best they can since Congress is afraid of the NRA's lobby power.