Published on March 24th, 2013 | by Pilot9
Follow the Money Part 2: Sandy Hook Promise Innovation Initiative
This article will take a closer look at the Sandy Hook Promise Innovation Initiative and the movers and shakers behind it.
Sandy Hook Promise Innovation Initiative
Two days after the incident at Sandy Hook, a group of Newtown residents met for the first time to process the events of December 14th. The Hartford Courant covered the story and introduced what was then known as “Newtown United”.
“The group, organizers said, will use the traditional media, social media, outreach to churches, schools, government agencies and all other avenues to make “Newtown” a rallying cry against gun violence.
“We are just a few concerned citizens with day jobs trying to ensure that what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary marks the high-water mark for gun violence in this nation,” Newtown United spokesman Rob Cox wrote in an email. “Ultimately we hope to provide a platform for the voices of the families most affected by this horrific event.”
Many around the nation have offered help. The “outpouring,” Cox said, “from people, companies, advertising and PR firms offering their pro-bono services and expertise has been absolutely overwhelming.”
Cox said the group likely will hire a paid staff, with headquarters in the Sandy Hook section. The group has a mission statement: “We stand with the children, the families, the teachers and the community touched by the massacre of innocent lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14. We are united with the country to drive national efforts to turn the tide on gun violence. We are dedicated to ensuring the senseless act of violence that occurred in Newtown is never repeated.”
These “concerned citizens with day jobs” happen to have very pertinent experience, the kind of experience that Newtown is fortunate to have in its pool of resources:
Rob Cox Editor, Reuters Breakingviews
Tom Bittman VP/Analyst Gartner
Tim Makris PR/Marketing Thule group
David Paine PR/Marketing
Lee Shull Software consultant, tech business intelligence
Other members of the community that participated in the meetings were quoted in the Courant article:
“Another man who has emerged as a prominent voice in the group is Andrei Nikitchyuk, an immigrant from the Ukraine whose 8-year-old son, Bear, was in the school hallway when Adam Lanza burst in and started shooting. A teacher pulled Bear and another student into her room.
“I think that many people will help us,” said Andrei Nikitchyuk, who works in finance for a large information technology company. “What we have now is an outrage, and we are trying to translate that … shellshock into something positive.”
“We have inexhaustible resolve,” the 47-year-old father of three said, “and we as a group just need to channel it to change the world.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and and Sen.-elect Chris Murphy attended the meeting Dec. 19 and advised the group to feed the fire while public sentiment is strong and raw.
“There’s been a seismic change in the public consciousness and the political landscape,” Blumenthal said.
He and Murphy will use the nation’s sorrow and resolve for change to fight for a ban on assault weapons, more comprehensive background checks and other gun control measures, Blumenthal said. But he told the people packed into the library’s community room that they, too, will have to fight. The gun lobby and its supporters in Congress, Blumenthal and Murphy said, are waiting for the spotlight on Newtown to fade.”
Talk about not letting a crisis go to waste! Cooler heads decided that it would be prudent to not demonize responsible gun ownership, and work instead with manufacturers and entrepreneurs in the industry.
From the CT Post published January 11th:
“Newtown United, a local group that formed after the shootings to help the families and to forge a community dialogue, is rebranding itself as Sandy Hook Promise. The group says it has members of victims’ families among its supporters.”
The PR people involved decided to change the name to better reflect the mission of the group, or perhaps they thought ‘Newtown United’ sounded too much like the name of a soccer team, who knows. Very quickly, connections were made with the ‘Angel Investor’ of Silicon Valley Billionaire Ron Conway, who is “good friends” with Gabrielle Giffords, bloodless head wound victim of the Safeway shoot’em up in Arizona. She happened to be at his Christmas party the day of the Newtown incident.
” The night before the shooting, I spoke to Conway, and he told me about the various startups he was digging into right now and how he was trying to help them. But talking to Giffords the next day, he decided to stop everything and devote all of his time to this issue — 24/7, he says — until Congress takes action.
In true Conway style, he’s bringing everyone he knows with him into the fight: the loud, the moneyed, and the influential among the tech universe. Last year’s SOPA and JOBS Act fights showed a new catalyzing of the startup ecosystem’s political power. Conway wants this fight — which doesn’t have to do with boosting anyone’s bank account or financial prospects — to be the biggest thing Washington has seen from our community yet.”
“One of the key people he’s partnered up with is Huffington Post and Lerer Ventures co-founder Ken Lerer–who knows a thing or two about using the press to push a political goal. Lerer was already putting together his own New York media-centric campaign, quietly behind the scenes.
The speed with which the post tragedy organizations have come to life is disturbing, none of it proves foreknowledge, but the willingness to capitalize on the dead kids and influence legislation in the aftermath is at best cynical and calculating.
The Sandy Hook Promise Innovation Initiative lists several key elements:
How the Sandy Hook Promise Innovation Initiative Works
The Sandy Hook Promise Innovation Initiative is a “call for ideas” to reduce gun violence and a commitment by leading venture capitalists and angel investors to fund promising innovations in gun safety, mental health research and related new technologies. The Technical Committee to Reduce Gun Violence, which is a part of the Sandy Hook Promise organization, will be overseeing this initiative. Examples of focus areas include, but are not limited to:
- Gun safety technologies (e.g. electronic firing pins, RFID, GPS, biometrics, and enhanced software systems)
- Background check processing (for public and private sector sales)
- School safety technologies (including emergency response systems)
- Mental health applications
- Shot and gun detection systems
- Big data analytics
In other words, less privacy, more control. More money for the tech industry. From a particular point of view, those dead kids represent a win win win situation!
The fear mongering over the gun ban was pointed out early on to be a bit of a red herring by astute observers. Now that Madame Feinstein’s efforts have been thwarted, many people who were paying attention have put the ballgame back on. At least that is what they are being encouraged to do.
This would be a mistake, especially in light of the massive ammunition purchases made by DHS. See this article by Kennedy Ray.
It is still unclear how much Sandy Hook Promise has in its coffers. Bloomberg is spending 12 million on ads in states where gun control sentiment is divided in order to tip the scales. Read more about that here. Ron Conway has “bought himself a mayor”, Ed Lee of San Francisco, who, along with other big city mayors around the country have joined forces with Bloomberg’s gun control efforts. Hmmmm. We have Obama and the democrats in congress pushing for the gun bans and two republican billionaires working toward the same goal. Is this the kind of bi-partisanship that will benefit the people, the kind we wish they were capable of but never seem to manage when it comes to practical, common sense issues like free trade agreements?
You tell me.