Sandy Hook victims' parents fight for gun safety laws

More than four years after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, the sense of loss has not diminished in Newtown, Connecticut. But some of the grief has been channeled into action.

"What happened at Sandy Hook was preventable," Nicole Hockley said.

Then issue is extremely personal for Hockley and fellow Sandy Hook parent Mark Barden. Hockley's son Dylan and Barden's son Daniel were among the 20 first graders killed at the school in December 2012. In the aftermath, the parents helped co-found the organization Sandy Hook Promise.

"What Sandy Hook Promise is doing is preventing violence before it happens," Barden said.

Passing gun violence prevention policy has been an uphill battle and near-impossible on the national level. Last month Republicans rolled back a rule that would have made it harder for some people with mental illness to purchase guns. The policy was put in place by President Obama in part because of the school massacre in Newtown.

So for now, Sandy Hook Promise is focused on passing legislation at the state level in the form of what's called Gun Violence Restraining Orders, or GVROs, which allow a court to temporarily remove a firearm from a person deemed a danger by his or her family members or law enforcement officials.

"If you chose to own firearms, and a family member observes behaviors that indicate you are at risk for hurting yourself or someone else this provides an option to store your firearm somewhere else until everything is OK," Barden said. "It basically prevents a tragedy before it happens."

Eleven states, including New York and New Jersey, are currently considering GVRO bills. But despite the efforts of groups like Sandy Hook Promise, the legislation has stalled in a number of states, including New York, where bills have been introduced several times in past sessions but didn't go anywhere.

"I think there's more education to be done," said state Sen. Brad Hoylman, a sponsor of the New York GVRO bill. Some opponents argue GVROs could infringe on gun owners' rights, but Hoylman disputes that.

"We're not taking guns out of people's homes. We're providing a system so that individuals who are alerted to a dangerous individual who could conduct harm to themselves or to others have a procedure in place to intervene," Hoylman said. "It will avert tragedy."

Several states, including California and Washington, have recently passed GVRO laws. Connecticut has had one on its books since 1999. Hockley said if more people knew about it, perhaps her son's killer, Adam Lanza, could have been stopped.

"If his mother had gone and said, 'I think my son is in danger of hurting someone else,' yeah it could have [stopped him]. She did not," Hockley said. "If law enforcement had they been aware, they could have stopped it."

Whether or not the GVRO bills pass this time around, Hockley and Barden said they will continue their push of getting people to recognize the signs of someone who wants to inflict harm on themselves or others.

"That's our lifetime mission: To prevent these tragedies and teach people what they can do in their lives and community right now," Hockley said.