What You Need to Know About the Sandy Hook Promise PSA

Originally posted on www.jasonwellsauthor.com

            Over the last several days, a public service announcement has made its way through the internet like a flame across a gas-soaked wheat field.  The PSA is the creation of “Sandy Hook Promise”, which is a non-profit organization founded by family members of victims of the Sandy Hook attacks.  If you haven’t seen the PSA video yet, you are probably 1) on another planet and/or 2) like my father, still trying to figure out “this damn internal net thing”.

            It’s a powerful, compelling video.  Feel free to view it here.  And, for the first time in my blogging life, I will warn you to read no further if you haven’t seen it yet as there are “spoilers” ahead.

The video is painted in a setting of a budding romance between two students as they exchange a secret note to one another via a library table.  Throughout the video, we see a boy student who seems to be the “all-American kid”.  We see his youthful exuberance of first-love, the joy of school life, and those other things that come with the age.  At the end of the video, the boy finally meets his secret admirer… and then another student walks into the room where they are meeting and begins killing everyone in sight with a firearm.  It’s a disturbing transition from the previous two and ½ minutes, and there is no doubt that the video will stay with you long after it finishes running.

The message is clear:  The signs are apparent if society knows what to look for.  In the video in the background, our future assailant is actively involved with all manner of things that could be construed as “warning signs”.  He is watching shooting videos online, he is bullied, he shows anger towards other students.  The Sandy Hook Promise video is showing the importance of recognizing the behavioral indicators that lead to threat-related violence, and that it is important we recognize them in society before it becomes a tragedy.  I agree with this completely.

In my new book “Our Path To Safety:  A U.S. Secret Service Agent’s Guide To Creating Safe Communities”, I go into great detail as to what those signs are, and how members of our community can recognize them.  It is critically important that our national communities get on board with this message, and begin to learn what to watch for and how to prevent it proactively.  It would seem that Sandy Hook Promise agrees with that.

            And then our philosophies differ, and this is where I will do my best to take on a gentle tone. I certainly respect the families who have had to endure the suffering of losing their loved ones to such senseless violence like the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary.  But it is equally important to point out that their PSA, although powerful in its message, is equally political in nature.  And politics must not be a factor when dealing with creating a safe community.

            The video makes it a point to target gun violence as the dominant factor.  I understand why Sandy Hook Promise would do this, as the assailant of Sandy Hook was well armed with firearms during his assault.  But gun violence is not the only kind of violence that comes from threat-related behavior.  Just last week we witnessed an attack at Ohio State University where the assailant used a knife.  A few days after that a professor at USC was killed when a disgruntled student attacked him with a knife as well.  Both situations did not involve firearms, and both attackers exhibited behaviors that could have given cause for concern to those who knew what to look for.  There are countless types of threat-related behavior that can be identified in much the same way that the Sandy Hook Promise PSA encourages people to look for; we should not be limiting ourselves to a tunnel-vision concept of gun violence.

Sandy Hook Promise could, should be so much more.  They have done so much to rise up and make a good thing out of the most horrible, terrible situation.  I just wish that they wouldn’t limit their message to a subtle mission of gun control.  It effectively tunes out anyone who is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment.

            I don’t believe that proactive safety involves a gun debate at all.  If you support gun control or gun rights, good for you.  I won’t preach it either way.  I just want everyone to speak the same message:  That we should do everything we can, together, to ensure that a gun doesn’t become a factor in the first place.  Be that in the hands of assailant, or the responsibly armed person who has to make the decision to shoot a possible attacker.  Proactive safety in general is the key to stopping any kind of violence, whether it is a stabbing, a bomb, or a shooter at a school.


Jason Wells is the author of Our Path To Safety:  A U.S. Secret Service Agent’s Guide To Creating Safe Communities.  Jason is the President and Founder of the National Advancements for Proactive Safety, an educational non-profit organization committed to providing a safe community through intervention processes and a former Special Agent with the United States Secret Service.  He is a contributing writer to the online publication Robious Corridor, and a Board Member of the National Senior Citizens Committee.  He has been featured in the Huffington Post, Forbes, Slate and Fatherly.