At the heart of today’s mass shooting controversy like Sandy hook lay one, central question: “What?” What motivates a person like Adam Lanza to do the things they do? What kind of environment creates the kind of monster that would butcher a school full of children? What keeps a parent from acting on the telltale signs of a child on the brink of atrocity? And most importantly: WHAT can we do to stop it? These are questions with difficult answers, but one thing’s for sure: You probably don’t buy your kids guns for Christmas after finding drawings of mutilated child corpses.
In a new book titled Newtown: An American Tragedy, author Matthew Lysiak sheds some incredible light on the events preceding the 26-person massacre, including some very salient information on Lanza and his mother’s home life. One of the more interesting facets of Lanza’s upbringing in what a friend of the family describes as a “live free or die,” “pro-gun environment.”
Lanza’s mother, Nancy, was the sole caregiver for her son who reportedly had several neurological conditions, spent most of his life in his room, communicated with his mother primarily by email and didn’t like to be touched. Knowing of her son’s condition, Nancy (an avid gun enthusiast and Second Amendment supporter) believed that target practice might be a good way to bond with her distant son — they began regular shooting practice when he was 4 years-old.
By 2012, Lanza became even more withdrawn, hiding often for days dressing head-to-toe in military apparel, playing violent video games in the basement that included:
- Left for Dead
- Dead Rising
- Half Life
- Grand Theft Auto
- Vice City
- and Call of Duty
Lanza began taking his target shooting closer to home when he set up an indoor target range, complete with paper targets for his pellet gun. It was around this time that Lanza likely took the next step toward bringing his fantasies to reality by drawing “gruesome depictions of death, images of mutilated corpses” and, chillingly, a “grassy field lined with the corpses of young children.”
Like the final bit of shadow in a developing photo, that last piece of Lanza’s collection came to light: A seven-foot by four-foot spreadsheet that ranked the “top five hundred mass murderers in world history,” the main body of research he required to become the greatest mass murderer of all.
Nancy found the drawings in his room when he was 20 years old. She was afraid to confront her son, already in possession of some real firepower of his own, because “she feared he might further shut her out,” and would be “lost forever.”
Apparently, in an effort to “reach” her son, Nancy arrived at the idea of a special Christmas gift: a semi-auto, 9 mm CZ 83 pistol. Authorities found a check for the weapon…after Lanza shot her dead in her bed, took her guns and went to fulfill his destiny at Sandy Hook.
In a sense, it’s hard to not sympathize to some extent with Lanza’s mother, however incredibly misguided her underlying beliefs may have been. In her own mind, guns were themselves a means of expression of freedom, and undoubtedly security. You can see how Nancy might have seen guns, in this way, as having the intrinsic power to free her son of the fear and anxiety that kept him in his room, and caused him to reject humanity.
Unfortunately for Nancy Lanza, she failed to recognize false security for what it was; she, like many Second Amendment and gun nuts nationwide, failed to heed the nature of the killing machine. Raised on guns and gun culture, perhaps it was inevitable that Lanza’s seed of anger and loneliness would germinate into a tree of murderous rage. It’s hard to say what would have become of Lanza had he been raised in a safe, secure environment, free of ever-present reminders of fear and death; but the world that he came to hate was a reflection of those he came to hate.
And the thing that he came to hate — a vision of himself, with his mother’s gun, a monster in a monstrous world, doing what monsters are here to do.
h/t: USA Today