PeaceNovato holds vigil remembering Sandy Hook 10 years after tragedy

Bowen Rivera

10 years ago, on Dec. 14, 2012, a mass shooting occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School resulting in the deaths of 20 children and six adults. Every year on the tragedy’s anniversary, PeaceNovato has held a vigil in memory of those lost, and as a form of protest against gun violence. The organization’s goal is to engage the community on issues of peace and social justice, with a significant focus on gun violence.

At the vigil, Julia Manson holds up a sign representing the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Shooting.

This year, PeaceNovato stood in solidarity outside the Novato City Hall, on the night of Dec. 14. The assembled participants held up signs and candles for oncoming traffic to view. These observers included Donald Foster, one of the co-founders of PeaceNovato, Julia Manson, a co-chair of PeaceNovato as well as other members of the community. Manson stated that although most people will only interact with demonstrations for a couple of seconds at a time, they can still have a massive effect in spreading their message. 

“An ad for the Super Bowl costs, what? $5 million, $6 million for just 20 seconds. So obviously, the subliminal effect of just that 20 seconds is very potent. It takes 20 seconds for cars to drive past us,” Manson said.

This advertising has helped PeaceNovato to spread their message, recruit more volunteers and support gun violence victims. The organization was originally founded nearly 20 years ago, in order to protest the invasion of Iraq, but it has shifted focus since then to more heavily address gun violence in the US.

“The prevalence of gun violence in the US [made us reconsider our focus]. It wasn’t like this when I was in high school,” Foster said.

In 2022 alone more than 40,000 people have died due to gun violence in the US

According to Pew Research Center, gun violence rates have been steadily increasing since 2004, with 2020 being the deadliest year on record for gun deaths in the United States, with 45,222 deaths in total.

There have been some developments to address the issue of gun violence in recent years. In 2021, the House of Representatives passed the Enhanced Background Checks act, which aims to increase the rate of background checks in gun sales, although this bill has since stalled in the Senate. Other efforts for gun reform have been heavily focused towards education. 

“When I was drafting the copy for this vigil, I really hadn’t been aware that there [has been a] shift… The change in direction of the conversation from gun control to gun safety,” Manson said. 

The children killed in the Sandy Hook shooting were all between the ages of six and seven and would have been juniors in high school had they been alive today. Like many students, Junior Ava Jensen, despite not knowing any of the victims, feels connected to the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting due to their similar ages.

PeaceNovato’s other non gun violence related undertakings include the paper crane remembrance project, which has made a paper crane for every service member killed in the middle east.

“They would also be the same age [as me]; they’d be juniors, attending high school, getting ready for college. And that just really connects to me, because the fact that people who attend school just like me every day can have their lives end in mere seconds, it’s really unimaginable,” Jensen said. 

Although there isn’t one single simple solution to gun violence, Foster argued that individuals and high schoolers can have an effect to reduce gun violence, by making their voices heard. 

 “If you want to stop [gun violence], get out on the street and protest. Make it visible,” Foster said. “I wish that every single day every single newspaper in the country would print, under the headline, the number [of] people who have been killed in the last 24 hours, by guns.”