Speaking Out Against Gun Violence

Activists encourage community members to prevent gun violence in schools


Danielle Krantz

Mark Barden of Sandy Hook Promise and Kyle Paqué of COR Foundation, Inc. answer audience questions.

“I have subsequently made it my life’s work to try to identify realistic, sustainable solutions and ultimately save other families from living this never-ending pain,” said Mark Barden, founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise.

Temple Emanu El hosted Barden and Kyle Pacqué of COR Foundation, Inc. Oct. 8 to speak about gun violence in schools.

They appeared as part of Temple Emanu El’s series of discussions addressing gun violence in schools. The series started with survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, Mandy and Harris Jaffe, who spoke about the power of voting June 8.

Barden lost his 7-year-old son Daniel Dec. 14, 2012, to a gunman who killed 20 students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Sandy Hook Promise trains teens and adults to be alert to warning signs of shooters.

According to Barden, Daniel woke up very early the morning of the shooting and wanted to walk with his siblings to their bus. He then wanted to snuggle with his dad until it was time to go to school. As the sun rose, Daniel said to Barden, “This is going to be a beautiful day, Dad.”

“It was time to take Daniel to the bus. Shortly thereafter, everything changed, forever,” Barden said. “One of [the victims] was the kid we used to jokingly call ‘the caretaker of all living things.’ ’’

Daniel “was shot to death hiding in the bathroom of his first-grade classroom.”

Sandy Hook Promise released a public service campaign in 2016 called Evan. It seemingly follows the romantic story of a boy and a girl while a school shooter evolves in the background,unnoticed. This video has reached more than 11 million views.

In addition to working with Sandy Hook Promise, the Barden family started a foundation called What Would Daniel Do, to inspire kindness. 

I think both speakers came in and were really able to share their own stories and connect that to how their stories are relevant to today’s issues and were really able to spread awareness to the youth of the Jewish community

— Nicole Davis

Kyle Pacqué, director of programming at COR Foundation Inc, spoke after Barden. Pacqué graduated from Virginia Tech in 2013.

Pacqué said COR Foundation, Inc. teaches compassion to students to form sensitive leaders through an approach called COR 4, which strives to empower students to change their environment through actions, consciousness, solutions and analytics. COR partners with schools to facilitate discussions about violence in the hopes of reducing it. It was inspired by the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, where a shooter killed 32 people and injured 23 others. 

Paqué went on to talk about how a student could make a difference in the life of another student. “Imagine a world where students see one of their peers make a post online or show signs of being socially isolated and not only do they say something to a trusted adult, but they choose to develop a friendship with that individual. In that world there’d not only be the absence of something bad, but there would be the presence of something good,” Paqué said.

“I think both speakers came in and were really able to share their own stories and connect that to how their stories are relevant to today’s issues and were really able to spread awareness to the youth of the Jewish community,” Mayfield High School sophomore Nicole Davis said.

Both speakers talked about the importance of speaking up on the issue of gun violence.

Community member Benjamin Light echoed this opinion. “I think we need to advocate for the things that are important to us and pass laws that are important to us,” Light said.

Barden reiterated that people can prevent shootings.

He said, “It’s not all lost. We can, we will, and we have prevented this from happening to other families. That is the mission that I have embarked on five years ago.”

Social Issues Investigations Reporter Ashley Sah contributed reporting.

Comment using your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL or Hotmail account