One month after the devastating shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a group of local residents who formed "Newtown United" plan to unveil a national grass-roots initiative aimed at reducing gun violence with the goal of "preventing similar tragedies from ever taking place again."
Leaders of the group, which is changing its name to Sandy Hook Promise, said that they will lay out their plans on Monday. Without identifying specific initiatives, organizers said Friday that they will "ask individuals across the country to make a promise to encourage and support common sense solutions that make their communities and our country safer from acts of violence like that which occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14."
Founders of the group will be joined by victims' family members, survivors of the shooting, first-responders and other community members.
What is now Sandy Hook Promise was initially formed to aid the families who lost children in the attack, which claimed the lives of 20 6- and 7-year-olds and six adults. But following discussions with the families, it became clear that the group would also play a role in the national debate on gun violence. The group's Facebook page includes numerous links to stories on gun control as well as mental health initiatives, although the group has not formally endorsed any proposals as yet.
Records with the Secretary of the State's office show that earlier this week, organizers registered both the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation Inc., and the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund Inc. The separate entities will allow the group to collect charitable funds for the families as well as donations to pursue political action.
The group, formed just days after the shooting, was set up so quickly that organizers were unaware that the name "Newtown United" was already in use — by a local cancer-research organization founded in 2010. That apparently prompted the name change to Sandy Hook Promise.
Monday's announcement will come one month to the day after 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his way into the elementary school and killed principal Dawn Hochsprung and psychologist Mary Sherlach in a hallway before killing 20 students and four more educators in two classrooms.
Also Friday, the uncle of one of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting blamed "unintended miscommunication" for the failure of the White House to seek his family's input in the development of proposals to reduce gun violence.
Alexis Haller said that he has been in touch with Vice President Joe Biden's office, which assured him that Biden was interested in hearing the views of Haller's sister, Veronique Pozner. Pozner is the mother of Noah Pozner, the youngest victim of the massacre. Biden is leading a White House task force on gun violence, formed in response to the Sandy Hook shootings.
Haller had earlier issued a statement on his sister's behalf in which she criticized the White House's lack of contact. "As the mother of a 6-year-old victim of a cold-blooded massacre of school children, I am puzzled and disappointed by the fact that I have had no information or opportunity to be heard regarding the upcoming legislative proposal in Washington," she said in the statement.
But Biden's office subsequently reached out to Haller and said that the White House had been led to believe that the families were not ready to speak.
"Based upon our conversations with the vice president's office, it is possible that people are purporting to represent all of the families, when they don't," Haller, who lives in Washington state, said by telephone Friday.
He declined to elaborate, but said a line of communication was now open between his family and the White House. "My sister and I intend to speak with the vice president's office moving forward and we feel we now have a means to do so," he said.