Gun safety group Sandy Hook Promise released a terrifying ad this week that shows fictional students using their back-to-school supplies to defend themselves against a school shooter.
Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit created in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, produced the minute-long public service announcement to raise awareness about the signs of potential school shooters.
The commercial, which aired for the first time Wednesday morning during NBC’s “Today” show, begins like a typical ad for back-to-school supplies, with students showing off their new backpacks and folders. But the students find new ways to use their supplies as a shooter terrorizes their school.
“These new sneakers are just what I need for the new year,” a young boy says as he runs away from the shooter in the school hallway.
“This jacket is a real must-have,” a young girl says as she uses it to fasten a set of doors shut in the gymnasium so the shooter can’t enter.
Another student describes his new skateboard as “pretty cool” as he uses it to break through a window in his classroom to escape as students scream in the background.
Two more students can be seen hiding in their art class, gripping new scissors and colored pencils in case they need to defend themselves. Another girl uses her new socks as a makeshift tourniquet on her classmate’s wounded leg.
In the final scene, a crying girl crouched in the darkness sends a text on her phone: “I love you mom.”
“I finally got my own phone to stay in touch with my mom,” she says through tears before the sound of a door opening is heard in the background. The girl closes her eyes as footsteps grow louder.
White words on a black background in the ad conclude, “It’s back to school time and you know what that means. School shootings are preventable when you know the warning signs.”
Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son was one of the 20 children killed during the 2012 massacre, co-founded Sandy Hook Promise to curb gun violence and lobby for legislation to help make schools safer. She said her group’s new ad may be hard to watch, but it’s necessary to effect change.
“People might wonder why do a PSA that is hard to watch,” she said during an interview with “Today” that aired Wednesday. “We don’t want people to run away from it. So pretending it doesn’t exist is not helping to solve [the issue of school shootings.]”
Since the Sandy Hook shooting, more than 400 people have been shot on campuses nationwide, according to a New York Times report. To address the epidemic of gun violence sweeping the nation, Sandy Hook Promise has called on Congress to pass classroom safety and gun safety legislation.
The group is also urging everyone to recognize the signs of a potential shooter, including a fascination or obsession with firearms, social isolation and over-reactions to seemingly minor issues.
Sandy Hook Promise has released several “Know The Signs” PSAs over the last few years, though this year’s “Back-To-School Essentials” ad is the most graphic and is the group’s first one to show blood.
Several presidential candidates have signed on to share the video on their social media, and a few networks, including CNN and AMC, have donated media placements, according to the Times.
When asked how she’s holding up seven years after her son’s death, Hockley told “Today” that she’s “still standing” and hopeful that the ad will ignite change.
“I’m still filled with hope because I know that we can save lives along the way while we get to where we need to be as a country,” she said.