‘Hard-to-watch’ school shooting ad
A harrowing back-to-school television commercial about the horrors of mass shootings in classrooms across America has launched in the US.
The public service announcement by Sandy Hook Promise, a gun safety advocacy group, immediately went viral with millions of views on social media within hours of its release on Wednesday.
Many viewers described it as the "most powerful thing" they'd ever seen, while others said it was "hard-to-watch" and "too graphic". Despite the conflicting views, the "back to school essentials" video and #sandyhookpromise were soon trending on Twitter.
The commercial starts cheerfully with a boy admiring his new backpack.
But the narrative quickly darkens, with other students using everyday back-to-school items -including pencils and scissors as knives - to survive a shooting as the sounds of screams and gunshots ring out in the background.
"These new sneakers are just what I needed for the new year," one boy says as he runs through a corridor.
"These new socks, they can be a real lifesaver," a girl says, taking off her knee-high hosiery to use as a tourniquet on another student's bloody leg.
In one scene, a boy uses his skateboard to break a window in a desperate attempt to escape the gunfire.
As it nears the heartbreaking end, a little girl huddles in a bathroom cubicle and types out a loving text to her mother on a glittering pink phone. Tears stream down her face.
"I finally got my own phone to stay in touch with my mum," she says.
The child closes her eyes at the sound of a door opening and footsteps approaching before the scene fades to black.
"It's back to school time. And you know what that means," white texts that appears on the screen reads.
Survive the school year with these must-have #BackToSchool essentials. https://t.co/9KgxAQ0KGz— Sandy Hook Promise (@sandyhook) September 18, 2019
This PSA contains graphic content related to school shootings & may be upsetting to some viewers. If you feel this subject matter may be difficult for you, you may choose not to watch. pic.twitter.com/5ijYMtXRTy
The Sandy Hook Promise was created after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. Twenty six people, including 20 children, were killed in the massacre.
It's latest advertisement is part of the organisation's "Know the Signs" campaign that aims to warn students, teachers, and parents about the signs that someone is planning a shooting. According to the group, eight children die from gun violence in the US and 32 more are shot and injured every day.
I loved him from his first breath.— Nicole Hockley (@NicoleHockley) December 13, 2018
I’ll grieve him till my last.
Good night, my beautiful butterfly, Dylan. 03/08/06-12/14/12 pic.twitter.com/RFqsmDcYdw
Nicole Hockley, a former marketing consultant who co-founded Sandy Hook Promise after her six-year-old son, Dylan, died in the Newtown shooting said "gun violence and school shootings are not easy subjects, and they shouldn't be fun to watch".
"The more we step away from reality, the less respect we're giving to those who have to live through this," she said.
Ms Hockey told USA Today that "we have to compel ourselves to address this head-on and do something about it".
The commercial was released a week after Congress reconvened, following six weeks of recess. Politicians have struggled to address gun violence despite the Sandy Hook shooting reigniting fierce debate over gun control in the US.
More mass shootings followed the 2012 tragedy, including at a church in South Carolina, a music festival in Las Vegas and a high school in Florida.
This year, shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas - including in a Walmart - saw dozens more innocent lives lost.
Having lost a brother in the Sandy Hook shooting, I want it to be clear that the “Sandy Hook Promise” doesn’t speak for me!— JT Lewis (@thejtlewis) September 18, 2019
The organization is run by 2 families of victims, but most of us stay far away. They don’t make that clear. We had to write a joint statement at one point
Hard to watch? Yes.— Meg (@MegBeth4) September 18, 2019
Do we have to live like this? No.
Sandy Hook Promise programs, including the #KnowTheSigns and #StartwtihHello are initiatives that can prevent this reality. https://t.co/UG6vyrgbYI
In the 20 days after the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, the National Rifle Association doubled its spending on digital advertisements compared with the same period before the attacks, to more than $21,000 a day from $10,000, according to Pathmatics, which analyses digital advertising data. On one day, the trade group spent more than $38,000, according to the New York Times.
But the groups opposing the gun lobby have started to ramp up their marketing activity, too. Everytown for Gun Safety, an organisation funded in part by former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, recently pledged to spend at least $2.5 million supporting gun control policies in Virginia before the election next year.
Walmart Inc and other stores have since called on patrons not to openly carry firearms in their stores, prompting protests from opponents who object to curbing gun rights.
The US House of Representatives, led by Democrats, has taken measures to address gun violence as politicians returned to Washington this week. These include three bills that seek to remove guns from people deemed a risk, ban high-capacity ammunition magazines and prohibit people convicted of violent hate crime misdemeanours from possessing firearms.
The Senate, led by President Donald Trump's fellow Republicans, has so far stayed on the sidelines, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell looking to the White House for guidance.
In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.— (((Dan Hodges))) (@DPJHodges) June 19, 2015
More than 100 chief executives of some of America's most well-known companies have called on the US Senate to take action to tackle gun violence, including expanding background checks and strengthening so-called red flag laws.
In a letter to politicians, 145 company heads urged meaningful action following a string of mass shootings across the US.
"Doing nothing about America's gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety," the letter to the Republican-led US Senate said, according to the New York Times, which first reported the correspondence.
Those signing the missive include the heads of Gap Inc, Levi Strauss & Co, and Dick's Sporting Goods Inc.
They also included Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, Uber Technologies Inc, Twitter Inc, and Amalgamated Bank, among others.
"We are writing to you because we have a responsibility and obligation to stand up for the safety of our employees, customers and all Americans in the communities we serve across the country," they said, according to the Times.