We cannot understand how the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims’ families feel. But Adam Lanza’s horrifying mass murder in Newton, Conn. almost a year ago remains an unresolved pain in the hearts of many Americans.
We search for something to blame in order to get closure from both getting justice and acting to prevent a similar tragedy. Unfortunately, that answer remains elusive.
On Monday, Connecticut State’s Attorney’s Stephen J. Sedensky III released the final report of the Dec. 14 events in which Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother, himself and 20 children and six educators in Newtown. Mr. Sedensky closed the investigation without charging anyone or finding a motive for the crimes.
Blame the guns?
Before the children’s bodies had been taken out of the school, politicians like New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg blamed guns, not the murderer, for the events. Within 48 hours, President Obama called for new gun control laws, including “assault-weapon” and “high-capacity magazine” bans to prevent the rare mass shooting.
The state’s attorney report shows that all the guns and ammunition were legally bought by the shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza.
Lanza used a Bushmaster Model XM15-E2S rifle in 5.56 caliber in the mass killing, then killed himself with a Glock 20 pistol in 10mm. He also carried a Sig Sauer P226 in 9mm, which he did not use.
(The shooter brought a Izhmash Saiga-12, 12 gauge semi-automatic shotgun to the school but left it in his car. A police officer put the shotgun into the trunk of the car for security purposes following the shooting. This has resulted in Internet conspiracy theories that the shotgun, not the rifle, was used in the shooting. These theories are unfounded. All the shell casing found at the murder scene are 5.56 rifle ammunition or from the suicide shot from the Glock.)
Lanza was 20 years old, so he was a year shy of being allowed to possess a handgun under Connecticut law, which he disregarded that day. Mrs. Lanza had a legal pistol permit.
The shooter only stopped when the police arrived. He had plenty of ammunition and was prepared to continue changing magazines and reloading.
The rifle found near Lanza had a magazine only half-empty. Police found two empty 30-round magazines duct-taped together in a tactical configuration at the scene.
Gun-control advocates often cite “high-capacity” magazines as a cause of gun violence, but the sophisticated way Lanza prepared his weapons showed how easy it is to change a magazine of any size and reload, even in an active shooter situation.
Mrs. Lanza was out of town leading up to the crime that her son committed the morning after she returned. He shot her in the head four times with a .22 caliber Savage Mark II rifle while she was in bed.
It is a shame that Mrs. Lanza gave her mentally ill son access to firearms. If the mother had locked her guns and not allowed her son to enjoy shooting — which the report says was a pastime he enjoyed — perhaps that would have prevented the shooting with those guns.
However, Lanza planned this killing over a long period of time. He conducted drive-by runs to the school. He had a spreadsheet of mass murders and studied school shootings. Even if he didn’t have access to his mother’s guns, one can presume he would have stolen them from another home.
And if he had tried to buy a rifle, he would have passed the FBI background check because there’s nothing in his records preventing him from owning a firearm.
Blame mental illness?
It’s easy to blame Mrs. Lanza for letting her crazy kid have access to guns, but according to the investigation, she did not know her son had violent tendencies and said he had “Asperger’s syndrome,” which is on the autism spectrum.
“The mother never expressed fear of the shooter, for her own safety or that of anyone else,” the report says. “The investigation has not discovered any evidence that Nancy Lanza was in any way aware of her son’s plans.”
The multitude of reports that said Mrs. Lanza tried and failed to have her son institutionalized were wrong. Lanza would only communicate with her via email, demanded to have his laundry done every day and was not functional, yet his mother merely planned to move in order to get him into a special school or a job.
It could be denial by a parent who loves her child no matter how deranged he is, but the professionals didn’t see it coming, either. The investigation does not conclude what, if any, role mental health played in the shooter’s motivation, but explicitly states that the “mental health professionals who saw him did not see anything that would have predicted his future behavior.”
Even among lay people who knew Lanza, they reported that, “He displayed no aggressive or threatening tendencies.”
Furthermore, the state’s attorney said that Lanza was well enough to know how to plan the murder, control his behavior and know it was wrong. The evidence supporting this conclusion include using ear plugs during the shooting, damaging his computer’s hard drive in advance and removing the GPS from his car.
Blame prescription drugs?
Despite the seemingly serious mental illness, Lanza did not take prescriptions drugs. The toxicology report released showed no alcohol or drugs of any kind in his system at the time of his death.
Blame video games?
Lanza played a lot of video games, but about half of them were nonviolent. At one point, his favorite game was “Super Mario Brothers.”
He played a lot of “Dance Dance Revolution,” which he would use to dance along with the video. The GPS in his home showed that he went almost every Friday and Saturday to a local theater that had a commercial version of “Dance Dance Revolution” in the lobby, which he would play from four to 10 hours at a time.
There are mixed reports of Lanza being bullied for his odd behavior throughout his childhood, but the accusations mostly come from the mother and father, Peter Lanza. Investigators found no evidence of bullying from teachers and other students who knew him in middle or upper school.
While Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary, he was never in the two classrooms in which he killed the children. He has said he “loved the school.”
Blame school security?
The school doors were locked and secure at 9:30 a.m. with a video camera and buzzer system that can allow entry after that time from three monitoring locations. Lanza simply shot through the plate-glass window next to the lobby door to enter the school.
A 911 call was made at 9:35 a.m. It took less than five minutes for the police to get to the school. About a minute later, Lanza shot and killed himself. The first officer entered the school at 9:44 a.m.
In that tight time frame, it seems the only thing that could have stopped Lanza was a good guy inside the school with a gun. There were no armed security guards at Sandy Hook Elementary School, nor did any of the staff have a weapons.
In the end, we can’t blame lax gun-control laws, access to mental health treatment, prescription drugs or video games for Lanza’s terrible killing spree.
We can point to a mother who should have been more aware of how sick her son had become and forced treatment.
We can wish the school had an armed guard who could have, at least, slowed down the homicidal maniac.
We all would like to go back in time and stop Adam Lanza from getting a gun and going into Sandy Hook Elementary School and bring those children and teachers back to life.
The sad conclusion is that we live in a broken world and, at times, evil cannot be stopped.
Emily Miller is senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times and author of “Emily Gets Her Gun” (Regnery, 2013).