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A gut-wrenching new video released by nonprofit Sandy Hook Promise shows kids using back-to-school products by fleeing, fighting or helping injured classmates while in the midst of a mock school shooting.
Sandy Hook Promise is a Newtown, Connecticut-based advocacy group that provides programs to help protect kids in the event of a mass shooting. The group is led by several family members of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012.
As of Thursday morning, the public service announcement had more than 1.2 million views on YouTube.
The PSA features kids in what initially appears to be a cheerful spot. But it becomes darker as children show how their back-to-school products help in the context of a shooting. A boy says, "These sneakers are just what I need for the new year" as he runs down the hallway. A girl says, "These new socks, they can be a real lifesaver," as she ties up a classmate's bloody legs.
In the end, a girl crying in the dark writes a text, "I love you mom," as she says "I finally got my own phone to stay in touch with my mom." The spot ends with the words, "It's back to school time and you know what that means. Schools shootings are preventable when you know the signs."
The organization promotes "Know the Signs" programs that teach students and adults to recognize the warning signs and threats that they say precede violence and self harm, along with steps to intervene and get help.
Sandy Hook Promise worked with Omnicom Group-owned BBDO New York on the PSA.
The organization said this will be its biggest campaign to date with print, digital, radio, and out-of-home placements and over $2 million worth of donated media placements.
Sandy Hook Promise's 2016 video, "Evan," won numerous advertising awards, including at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity, the industry's most vaunted awards festival.
The ad comes amid a fierce public debate over measures to protect Americans from gun violence. After a rash of massacres in schools and public spaces in recent years, congressional Democrats and some Republicans have pushed for stricter gun rules. Mass shootings in Texas and Ohio in August, which took place only hours apart, sparked more calls for action on gun control.
Democratic leaders have urged the Senate to pass a universal background check bill approved by the House earlier this year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not said which gun legislation he would take up as he waits to see what President Donald Trump would support.
While White House staff has reportedly considered backing a bipartisan Senate plan to strengthen gun background checks, Trump has not signaled whether he would support it. In a Fox News interview that aired Thursday, he said "we're going very slowly" in negotiations.
Gun control has jumped to the forefront of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary in recent weeks. Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke has made stopping gun violence a centerpiece of his campaign after a gunman targeting Mexicans killed 22 people at a Walmart in the presidential candidate's hometown of El Paso, Texas.
Trump has argued O'Rourke's proposal for mandatory government buybacks of assault-style weapons has made it harder for Republicans to agree on gun safety measures.