Like just about every parent with a TV or Internet connection, I’ve been searching for answers as to why a 20-year-old named Adam Lanza murdered 26 adults and children in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14. I’ve blamed the NRA and the monstrosity of a gun lobby. I’ve blamed our State and Federal governments’ woeful neglect of the mentally ill. All of the anger and sorrow have to go somewhere. All of this pain over the murder of 20 babies has to go somewhere.
Today, I blame his parents, Nancy and Peter Lanza. And I know that’s probably so damn wrong, especially after reading this gut-wrenching article by Liza Long about what it’s like to have a son like Adam Lanza. This author lives in constant fear that her 13-year-old son will hurt himself, her, or her other children. When I read what she’s done to get her son help, I see a mental health care system ill-equipped to put even a measly Band-Aid on his issues, let alone fix them. And I see she’s doing whatever she can in a seemingly impossible situation.
Then I read about Nancy Lanza. Let me say flat out that I know next to nothing about her and her efforts to care for her son. The story that’s starting to emerge is that he had psychiatric issues that she and her family were aware of. Apparently, she withdrew him from high school.
That’s all fine and good, but this is question I keep asking myself: Why the hell did she have five guns in her home? Why does anyone need five guns in her home, especially one that is similar to the rifles being used by American troops Afghanistan? Is there any reason why anyone in this country would need a semi-automatic weapon? Perhaps she’d never seen any violent behavior from her son. Perhaps she’s a lover of guns and she collects them the way I collect, well, I could say I collect Skinny Cow chocolate ice cream cones but I eat them all so I don’t think that counts. Why does one person need all those guns, guns that can kill 20 babies and 6 adults in the blink of an eye?
Now let me tell you why I’m an even bigger jerk. I blame the dad, Peter Lanza, too. And I do this knowing that I have not the foggiest notion of who he is or what his deal is. I blame him the way I blame so many fathers in divorce, men who shirk their responsibilities as fathers and move on once – or even before – the ink on the divorce papers is dry. Why do so many (though I know not all) men get to hit the restart button, while most moms have no choice but to dedicate their entire existences to caring for their special needs children? Peter Lanza is remarried, living somewhere else, and it looks like he didn’t have much contact with his kid in the last couple of years. So I have to ask: Where are the dads of these sick kids?
More details will emerge, details that will probably make me rethink what I’m saying here. I hope they do and I’m eager to read them, since I hate that I blame, in part, the mother of the shooter for this heinous crime. She died at the hands of her own son, a person she seemed to have loved and cared for. I have no idea what it’s like to have a child struggling with mental illness. But I can tell you this: if I did, there would be no guns around. No guns, no ammunition, no shooting practice, nothing.
Today I will again read the names of the 27 killed. And I wonder when, and not if, the next tragedy will happen. Because we all know – whether we’re pro-gun control, pro-conceal carry, pro-right to bear arms – that there is a link between mental illness, guns and violence. And we all know that if we don’t break the link there will be another shooting. Maybe the next one will be in my child’s school. Or in your child’s school. And then what?
* My thanks to the reader who notified me that the semiautomatic rifle Adam Lanza used was similar and not the same as the guns used by American troops in Afghanistan. This piece has been updated accordingly.
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