Newtown shooter Adam Lanza was obsessed with mass murders and even had a spreadsheet at his home listing some of the most horrific killings, according to a State’s Attorney’s report released Monday on last year’s Sandy Hook Elementary massacre that further hints at the link between mental health problems and gun violence.
The report by State’s Attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III in Danbury, Conn., said Lanza’s mental health was clearly an issue but, nearly a year after the December shooting, it is impossible to discern a specific motive for the attack that left 20 schoolchildren and six school employees dead.
Still, the report released Monday is replete with examples of questionable behavior, including images of him holding a handgun and rifle to his head and a computer game titled “School Shooting.” And the report also points to his mental health issues, including a 2005 diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome.
But investigators said they cannot draw a certain link between any of those and the shooting.
“It is important to note that it is unknown, what contribution, if any, the shooter’s mental health issues made to his attack on [Sandy Hook],” the report said. “Those mental health professionals who saw him did not see anything that would have predicted his future behavior.”
Investigators did conclude that Lanza’s mental health problems aren’t an excuse. They said he knew he was breaking the law and “had the ability to control his behavior to obtain the results he wanted, including his own death.”
Recent mass shooters, including those who committed massacres at Virginia Tech in 2007, Tucson, Ariz., in 2011, and Aurora, Colo. in 2012 have all displayed mental health problems, prompting some lawmakers to push forward on the issue despite a failed Senate vote to expand gun-purchase background checks earlier this year.
“The lessons of this report are simple: We must improve school security, increase mental health services, and require background checks for all gun purchases so we can keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat. “We should not wait for another gun violence tragedy to institute these reforms and other common sense measures. The cost of inaction is too great.”
Rep. Tim Murphy, Pennsylvania Republican, said last week he intends to introduce legislation next month “to fix the problems that have plagued the nation’s mental health system for decades.”
He said in 1955 there were 550,000 psychiatric beds and today there are fewer than 40,000, that the standard to make sure a mentally ill person gets treatment is unworkable, and that federal privacy laws make information-sharing in such cases difficult.
“We have to advance this so we have a key to unlock the door,” Mr. Murphy said. “I ask my colleagues to join me in working for these mental health reforms so that families can share the joy of recovery, instead of the sadness of loss.”
Mr. Murphy cited the case of Austin C. “Gus” Deeds, 24, the son of Virginia state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds. Police say Gus Deeds, who had struggled with bipolar disorder, stabbed the Bath County Democrat at his home Nov. 18 before dying of a self-inflicted rifle shot.
In Lanza’s case, he also exchanged emails with others who were interested in the subject of mass shootings, though none of those communications related to Sandy Hook or “in any way suggested that the shooter intended to commit a mass shooting,” said the report, which concluded that he acted alone.
Immediately after the Newtown shooting, Mr. Obama rolled out an ambitious gun control package that included bans on semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines and near-universal background checks.
That package ultimately devolved into a compromise measure that would expand background checks to sales online and at gun shows, but even that measure failed to pass the Senate earlier this year.