My Son Died in Sandy Hook Eight Years Ago. Gun Reform Still Lingers | Opinion

It's been eight years since my sweet little Daniel was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School, along with 19 of his classmates and six educators. It was less than two weeks before the holidays, and many of the children were making gingerbread houses when the shooting began.

For many families, the holidays are a time filled with joy. For us, the holidays are forever different. We know we have so much to be thankful for. Our two older children, James and Natalie are in college and growing into beautiful, kind and considerate adults whom we love and admire. Daniel is always top of mind for all of us, and the sad, longing feeling that he should be with us is all the more present at this time of year. Burying my seven-year-old child was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. My son had an incredible reservoir of compassion, and I vowed to do everything I could in his honor to prevent other families from enduring a similar fate.

In the months after the shooting, myself and other families called on federal officials to take action. We called for Universal Background Checks that keep guns out of the hands of people prohibited from owning them. We also support safe storage policies that keep guns and ammunition out of the hands of children.

Despite broad support from 95 percent of Americans—including many gun owners—federal lawmakers have yet to pass Universal Background Checks (S.42). With each passing month and year, Senate lawmakers are still failing to act.

And with millions more guns in people's possession, the potential for violence in schools, homes, and communities is higher than ever.

Driven in part by the ongoing pandemic and fear over national politics, more than 20 million guns were purchased in the United States between January and November this year. And those are only the sales we can track. This figure shatters every gun sales record in our nation's history.

Suicide has become the second leading cause of death for our youth. And experts are concerned that suicide rates among youth, who now have more access to weapons if left unsecured, is also on the rise.

If we want to prevent further violence and tragedy involving our youth, then the time to act is now.

More than 20 states including North Carolina and Pennsylvania, have passed some expansion of the federal background check system that closes the "private sales loophole." This loophole lets private sellers sell guns to absolute strangers without ever conducting a background check on the buyer.

Other states have passed Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) that empower family members to temporarily remove firearms from a loved one who may be in crisis. And Ethan's Law in my home state of Connecticut, offers a way forward for safe storage: requiring firearms to be locked separately from ammunition. It's time for federal lawmakers to follow the states' examples and act on these important and life-saving measures.

Real change is possible if we can put aside our differences and focus on what we have in common. We all love our children, they are our inspiration, our legacy, and our hope for a better future. We must come together as parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, educators and community members, to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable citizens.

I urge everyone to call your federal lawmakers and demand meaningful reform, including universal background checks, safe storage solutions, and expanded access to ERPOs, before more children are senselessly killed by gun violence. We must persevere, our dedication unwavering. And we must work together. We owe our children—the future of our nation—nothing less.

Mark Barden is co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, and the father of Daniel who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy on December 14, 2012.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.