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SAN DIEGO – Nearly a year has passed since the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut took the lives of 26 students and staff members.

Two San Diego women, originally from Newtown, spoke with Fox 5 about the upcoming anniversary, how the town has changed and how they’re making a difference from across the country.

Elizabeth and Kerin Sovern grew up in Newtown and graduated from Newtown High School.

The sisters will never forget December 14, 2012, the day of the mass shooting.

“It’s that heart sinking in your stomach moment, that you don’t even know how to react,” said Kerin Sovern.

In the days that followed, an old high school t-shirt inspired Kerin to start a fundraiser in support of the victims’ families. She and her friends had designed the “I love Newtown” shirts prior to high school graduation.

Kerin started NewtownPride.com and began selling copies of the shirts for $25 each. Orders quickly began pouring in from around the world.

“Germany, Australia, Iceland, Abu Dhabi, everywhere,” said Kerin Sovern. “It was pretty phenomenal.”

After shipping and printing costs, the shirt sales raised $34,648. The money was donated directly to the nonprofit organization My Sandy Hook Family Fund, which assists the families who lost children and their immediate family members.

Over Thanksgiving the sisters returned home to run with family members in the annual Turkey Trot. For the most part they believe the town has returned to normal.

“The undertone was there,” said Elizabeth Sovern. “You’re seeing shirts for the different victims of different people who they’re running for. But there was also the same casualness that you get every Thanksgiving morning that we’ve done it.”

As the anniversary of the tragedy approaches, the Soverns believe Newtown is looking forward instead of back.

“The good that they’re doing from the tragedies is pretty inspiring,” said Elizabeth Sovern. “They’re not just sitting back and being victims. They’re being champions for causes.”

The tragedy has also helped change perspective.

“Always stay positive and really focus on what can be done and what can be changed and not focus on the negative,” said Kerin Sovern.

The Newtown Pride t-shirts are still available if you’d like to donate to the cause. There are now a variety of t-shirt designs to choose from.

SAN DIEGO – Changes could be coming to San Diego Unified School District campuses in light of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Board Members voted unanimously Tuesday night to have all the district safety procedures reviewed.

The issue was brought forth by Board Member Scott Barnett, who has two of his own children attending school in the district.

Screen Shot 2013-01-08 at 8.44.54 PM“I feel confident that today we’re doing the best we can,” said Barnett. “That doesn’t mean we can’t improve procedures and reexamine them, everything from a potential violent situation to natural disasters.”

Barnett said the school district already utilizes many security measures. Those include, but aren’t limited to, police officers on campus and safety plans in case of evacuation or lock-down.

Barnett said the safety plans should be reviewed to make sure the district is doing the best it can “without making the campuses armed fortresses.”

Board member Kevin Beiser said the issue is at the forefront for educators.

“As I was visiting schools today this was the first issue on our conversation with administration at the sites,” said Beiser. “About what opportunities do you have to make your school site even safer then how we have our current safety plans?”

Barnett said he expects the safety review will take about 30 days and staff will return to the board with an update and suggestions.

No matter what comes from the review, School District Chief of Police Rueben Littlejohn said he is ready to respond.

“We will take this seriously,” said Littlejohn. “And we will take an omnipresent approach of trying to provide a presence everywhere, at all times, which is needed when looking at what happened in Connecticut.”

Barnett said bond money was already set aside for school improvements prior to the Sandy Hook shooting. That money could be used for upgrades such as fire alarms, security cameras, fencing or phone systems to name a few examples. He wants to ensure the district uses the money in the most efficient way possible.

sdusd sign

SAN DIEGO — A San Diego Unified School District Board of Education member is scheduled to ask his colleagues Tuesday night to call for a district-wide review of safety plans in light of the shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

The proposal by Trustee Scott Barnett would direct staff to review plans at each campus to determine what steps could be taken to increase student and staff safety and security, and report on potential costs of improvements.

The report should take into account threats to students, teachers and staff at district facilities, and dangers posed by potential natural disasters, such as earthquakes, fires, floods or tsunamis, according to Barnett.

Twenty children and six adults were killed in the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn. Gunman Adam Lanza, 20, died of a self-inflicted gunshot at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the body of his mother was later found in her home.

“This tragedy should spur us to take a detailed look at potential scenarios where students, staff, and visitors could be threatened, and ensure we have considered all safety and security options,” Barnett wrote in his proposal.

He said no one wants schools to become “armed fortresses,” but the district needs to make sure it is “fully and properly prepared” for potential dangers.

At a recent news conference, Board of Education President John Lee Evans said student safety has been a top priority for the panel.

“A lot of people don’t realize we have cameras at the schools, that we have phones in all the classrooms, that we have procedures for people coming in and out of the schools to make sure the parents know that our kids really will be safe in our public schools,” Evans said.

The SDUSD has its own police department and works closely with the San Diego Police Department. The agencies are preparing to deploy technology that will stream video from campus cameras directly into police vehicles.

SAN DIEGO – Some Del Mar residents want to put a stop to the annual gun show at the fairgrounds in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

gunshowAfter learning of the shooting massacre, former kindergarten teacher and Del Mar resident Rosanne Holliday posted a sign in her front yard asking people to write the Del Mar Fairgrounds Board of Directors to stop the gun show.

“I would like not to see other children killed and other people killed in these mass shootings,” said Holliday. “The hardship that the parents will face is going to last forever. They will never get over it.”

Other Del Mar residents joined Holliday in creating a petition and plan on presenting it to the 22nd District Agricultural Association at their monthly meeting scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s about taking a position and saying that we don’t think this should be done on public land,” Holliday said.

The Crossroad of the West Gun Show holds five shows a year and has been coming in Del Mar for 20 years. It generates about $300,000 annually for the county.

Del Mar Fairgrounds spokeswoman Linda Zweig said they are sensitive to the issue, but gun shows are legal in California.  California has some of the toughest gun sales laws in the country and the gun show at Del Mar is attended by every department of law enforcement in the county.

“The truth of the matter is that we are a public venue. No one can come in here, buy a gun and walk out. There are very strict rules and regulations,” Zweig said.

“You’ll never ever be able to legislate evil people,” said American Shooting Center owner Mark Halcon. “They’re going to do it no matter what.”

According to Halcon, buying a gun at a show is not different than buying at store. The 10-day waiting period and background check is the same.

“[The gun] has to be registered. You have to wait the 10 days and pick it up at different store,” he said.

Still Rosanne Holliday said it’s better to do something than nothing, even if it only makes statement.

“I just figure if it’s one gun that doesn’t get in the hands of people that shouldn’t have it, its worth my little sign out in front of my house,” she said.

Screen GrabSAN DIEGO – In the wake of the Newtown shooting, people are turning to social media to share their thoughts on gun control and some of the posts are going viral.

After the shooting, the group “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” launched this “Demand a Plan” PSA with help from celebrities including Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston and Jamie Foxx. In the video they voice the names of cities where mass shootings have occurred and “demand a plan” to end gun violence.

Shortly after the PSA was released, this parody video showed up on YouTube. (This is the clean version) It shows the celebrities from the “Demand a Plan” video acting in violent roles.

Fox 5 showed people the two videos and got a variety of responses.

“I think the movies do glamorize killing to the point where people become insensitive to it,” said Ken Falasco, San Diego visitor. “So blood, gore and all that other stuff is just like another day in the park. And I think the public demands it more than anything else.”

“The second video I definitely think is wrong,” said Kylie Hastings, Coronado resident. “The first one I think it’s good for the celebrities to stay what they think and to get children thinking about it.”

“The movies aren’t what the problem is,” said Jonnalee Falasco, San Diego visitor. “Violence has just become institutionalized and it’s just part of the mainstream now and you see it everywhere.”

The “Demand a Plan” video and parody aren’t the only examples of how gun control posts are going viral.

Recently Marine veteran Joshua Boston posted a CNN iReport. In the letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein he criticizes her gun control bill.

Boston writes, “I will not register my weapons should this bill be passed, as I do not believe it is the government’s right to know what I own.” He later writes, “ I am the man who fought for my country. I am the man who learned. I am an American. You will not tell me that I must register my semi-automatic AR-15 because of the actions of some evil man.”

Just like the YouTube videos, the letter is sparking a lot of online response regarding gun control.

SAN DIEGO – Days after the National Rifle Association said every school in the country should have armed guards, parents around the nation are speaking out.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said.  “I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation.”

This comes less than two weeks after 20-year-old Adam Lanza gun downed 20 kids and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Ryan Weir has a 7-year-old who attends Laura Rodriguez Elementary School in Logan Heights.  She believes nothing short of an armed defender will stop a shooter.

“I agree with that,” Weir said.  “It continues to happen over and over again.  It was the colleges now it’s trickled down to the kids, the younger kids, it just has to stop.”

“Well they should have armed guards, but it shouldn’t be noticeable,” another parent Marcey Weir said.

San Diego Unified School District already has around 25 armed police officer at its local high schools and some of the middle schools.  Executive Director Lisa Berlange with San Diego United Parents for Education told Fox 5 the biggest challenge about the NRA’s plan is funding.

“We don’t have the money to pay for a security guard at every school.  Right now schools are trying to find money for staffing, for counselors, for nurses, for teachers and so there would have to be some reorganizing of the budget to make that happen,” Berlanga said.

The NRA said the guards don’t need to be cops, instead they can be trained volunteers.

Father of a 6-year-old, John Budding said it’s not a step he wants to take.

“I think it’s over doing it, I think there are too many guns out there as it is,” Budlong said.

He believes if someone really wants to act out, they”ll find a way.

“At Columbine there were two security guards with guns and they couldn’t stop the shooting,” Budlong said. “I think adding more just defeats the whole purpose of safety for our kids.”

In grief-stricken Newtown and all across the country Friday, 9:30 a.m. was a time to stop, listen and remember.

SAN DIEGO — Twenty-six Christmas trees were lit in Kearny Mesa Thursday night to remember the Newtown shooting victims.

The tree memorial was created by the San Diego Association of Realtors and is outside the organization’s office at 4845 Ronson Court. The trees will remain lit until Christmas for the public to visit.

“Even though we’re 3000 miles away,” said Kim Holmes, San Diego Association of Realtors. “To let the people of Newtown, Conn. know that we here in San Diego mourn with them and we feel their pain. The entire nation is wrapping them up in prayer and lifting them up and they will not be forgotten.”

tree memorialTwenty small trees represent the Newtown Elementary students killed last Friday. Six large trees represent the slain staff members.

During a ceremony Thursday evening, the public lit candles and prayed before the tree lighting.

“By lighting these,” said Laurielynn Barnett, realtor. “Their spirit goes on.”

Ornaments on each tree bear the faces of the victims. Visitors can leave other ornaments, cards and gifts on the trees to be sent to Newtown after the holiday.

“We brought about six or seven little Christmas ornaments,” said Bud Churchill, San Diego resident. “That have been handed down from family members here and there. Those were the ones that went on. The store bought ones we still have on our trees. These had meaning and family behind it.”

Visitors said they’re glad to have a local memorial where they can pay their respects.

“I think that everybody is hurting,” said Barnett. “And it just gives us a place to come and be together and so much of healing from hurting is being together and having someone to share with.”

SAN DIEGO – Members of the San Diego community are finding creative ways to show their support for Sandy Hook Elementary.

A picture may be worth 1,000 words but the artwork at Art Soup in Encinitas speaks for itself.

The studio opened its doors to healing local kids and their parents by sending their art projects with warm sentiments to the community of Newtown, Conn.

SD residents rally behind Sandy Hook“This affects everybody even if you’re not in Connecticut,” Art Soup co-owner Michael Golden said.  “We wanted to be able to express our feelings all the way from the West Coast to the East Coast and show everybody the support that we have.”

Art Soup is collecting artwork at the Encinitas location and the owners hope the warm wishes will go a long way.

“As parents and citizens we just feel a responsibility and a duty for service and to give back to our community,” Art Soup co-owner Tiffany Golden said.

If art isn’t your thing, a San Diego canine celebrity is barking up support for Sandy Hook Elementary as well.

Ricochet “The Surfing Dog” launched an online fundraiser to send a guardian angel teddy bears to every student at the school.

“We all want to know that we are safe in the world and after something like that, it shakes you to the core,” Puppy Prodigies Executive Director Judy Fridono said. “We all want to know that we have a guardian angel watching over us. This is just a physical thing that the kids can hold.”

Several organizations like the San Diego Association of Realtors, San Diego Unified School District, San Diego Police Officers Association, San Diego Chamber of Commerce, South Bay Family YMCA and Point Loma Nazarene University are teaming up to honor the victims of the massacre.

Twenty-six Christmas trees are up in front of the SDAR building in Kearny Mesa. The public is invited to decorate the trees before a lighting ceremony Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

“We were impacted by this as much as any other community across the country,” SDAR CEO Mark Mercurio said. “We wanted to show that we care and we understand what they’re going through. We’re trying to have a display for everybody in San Diego to mourn and share their grief as well.”

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