So I have been thinking about this mysterious Adam Lanza who committed the absolutely heinous crime at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut. My sincere apologies to anyone who is offended by my intellectualizing this tragic incident, but it is the only way I can process it without compromising my stability.
My first question, obviously, is why did he do it? He was obviously disturbed from the time he was a child yet we hear nothing about his parents trying to get him help, or if they did try, it hasn’t been mentioned. What was it that made him do it? And, he did it in the opposite direction. Usually the prime target of shooting or series of shootings are not the people that are killed, but some single person which in this case, I think was his mother. However, he unlike some other mass shooters and one serial killer I can think of had to “work” up the nerve to confront the primary “victim.” Once this person is gone, they either kill themselves or turn themselves in.
In his case, I think he had two objectives: kill his mother and kill himself. But, he did it backwards. He killed his mother first, and then went to the elementary school. Why? Why the elementary school? Did he suffer some severe trauma at that age that made him go there? Nobody knows. The FBI are saying that they probably won’t be able to retrieve his hard drive (he smashed his computer with a hammer before his rampage which makes me think there was probably some stuff on there), he killed his mother with her own gun (once again proving a gun owner is more likely to be killed with their own weapon), and then went to the school where he killed 7 adults and 20 mostly six year olds before turning the gun on himself. Having tried several times to commit suicide, I can tell you it is not an easy thing to do. Survival instincts are too strong even in the severely mentally ill.
And, what was his mother doing with those types of weapons, unlocked, in her home when she knew her younger son had mental problems and had become increasingly agitated in the weeks leading up to the shooting. Did it not occur to her that he might use them on her, on others, or on himself? And, why did she start collecting the weapons in approximately 2008 after her divorce? Was it to protect herself from her ex-husband, or perhaps, from her son? Either way, it did not work. She was killed by her son, and then he committed the worst school massacre in US history, not in terms of numbers, but because he opened fire on an elementary school. I am still having trouble with the fact that he shot these children multiple times and at close range. What the hell was he thinking? Well, as most mass murderers do, he turned the gun on himself, so we’ll probably never know.
I was just looking at a list of some of the most deadly mass shootings going back to the original mass shooting at the University of Texas at Austin in 1966, and I noticed something kind of interesting. First of all, the Viet Nam War was just starting to gain momentum in 1966 even though it was kind of an extension of the Korean War. Protests against the war were popping up all over the nation, and Charles Whitman opened fire from the bell tower at the school and killed 16 people and wounding 31. The next shooting listed happened in 1976 when inflation was at an all time high, people were having trouble putting food on the table and keeping gas in their cars. This shooting was perpetrated by Robert Charles Allaway, a custodian at the library at Cal State. He fatally shot 7 coworkers and wounded 2 more.
In 1984 and 1986 we were in the middle of Trickle Down Economics that did nothing to trickle down. In fact, the unemployment rate during the Reagan years was 7.5% and the National debt had increased from $900 billion during the Carter years to $2.8 trillion under Reagan. Once again, we are looking at an economic down turn that made people feel uncomfortable and less secure. In 1984, James Oliver Huberty, an unemployed security guard, kills 21 people at a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, CA. In 1986, a postal worker about to be fired, Pat Sherill, shoots 14 people in a post office in Edmond, OK, and then kills himself.
Fast forward to the 90′s. We are at war in a conflict that few agreed with (bells of Viet Nam). During the 90′s, there were four notable shootings. Most notable was the shooting in 1999 at Columbine High School where Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (no history of mental illness) opened fire killing 12 and a teacher, wounding 26 others before killing themselves in the library. Not only were the 90′s about armed conflict in the Middle East, it was also the beginning of what has become a recession that has bordered on a depression as well as unemployment numbers beginning to increase slowly.
In the 2000′s we were still at war in the Middle East with no end in sight. Under George W. Bush, the deficit grew, poverty levels increased slowly, and America was hit for the second time with foreign terrorism when the Al Qaeda destroyed the World Trade Center. 6 mass murders have occurred between 2000 and 2012 in the United States.
What I find interesting, is there is no mention of mental health status, they were all perpetrated by white males, and they all coincided with periods of economic uncertainty, high deficits, and fluctuating unemployment rates. So, maybe instead of looking for the Why? of these shootings which I do not believe we will ever understand, we should look at what was going on socially in this country when the shootings took place. What was the economy like, was consumer confidence high or low, what did the deficit look like, what were the poverty levels, where was unemployment among other indicators.
Like I said, in order to process what happened at Sandy Hook, I have to take a step back emotionally and intellectualize it. I learned my lesson with 9/11.