After Scarlett Lewis lost her 6-year-old son Jesse in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting of 2012, she turned immediately to researching the root causes of the sort of violence that killed her child. She quickly became convinced that one thing that matters immensely in the context of mass shootings is the inability of most young people to manage their emotions and connect with others.
In the weeks after her son’s murder, Lewis started the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, an organization that brings curricula into schools to teach what’s called social and emotional learning. I spoke with Lewis about her turn to activism in the wake of her son’s murder, and why she feels it’s her duty to be a part of the solution to mass violence. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Isabel Fattal: What are you thinking about during this latest national conversation about mass gun violence?
Scarlett Lewis: When I saw the talk that was going on on TV and in the media, it was the exact same conversation that we were having following Sandy Hook. I turned on the TV five years later, and I couldn’t believe we were having the same conversation and there was no solution. Nothing had been done. And now, you have these students who are seeing inaction, and they’re still getting killed in their schools, so they feel the need to stand up for themselves. For me that was extremely depressing—because our conversations are not solution-oriented. It was depressing because it’s our responsibility as adults to protect our children, and we’re not doing that.