The Scapegoating of Nancy Lanza
by Lionel Shriver
Addressing the bereaved community of Sandy Hook last week, President Obama read the names of Adam Lanza's victims – all 26. On the one-week anniversary of America's second-most lethal school shooting, bells tolled across the nation – 26 times. But even omitting his suicide, the impenetrable killer's victims numbered 27.
American education has not so deteriorated that even the president can't count. The discreetly deleted fatality was Adam's first and no doubt primary target: his mother, shot in her bed, four times in the head. Yet grief on Nancy Lanza's account has been stinting. With funerals of children and teachers standing-room-only, Nancy's service last Thursday drew a sparse two dozen relatives.
According to the script in progress, Nancy Lanza doesn't deserve our tears. Implicitly or explicitly, we blame Adam's mother for his baffling rampage – if only for keeping five weapons in her home, four of which her son appropriated. Echoing similar sentiments all over the web, one White House Twitter follower wrote of Nancy, "RIP, but she's culpable".
Let's set aside European disapproval of civilians bearing arms, ever. If only by a circular definition, whereby anyone who systematically massacres 20 first-graders is ipso facto crazy, Nancy Lanza's 20-year-old was not well. On the face of it, then, was keeping guns in her house gross negligence? In which case, one more time, we get to demonise the mother.
Sandy Hook has been the most misreported story in recent memory, but a few facts may have emerged. To date, authorities have not located any confirmed diagnosis for Adam Lanza. Relatives and former classmates say he had Asperger's syndrome, but this mild form of autism has no correlation with violence. The boy is described as anything but menacing – rather, as withdrawn, antisocial, even "meek", according to an official at his high school, who explained that Adam was only assigned a psychologist because a scrawny, cringing loner might be tormented by peers.
Yet a Mail Online comment questions "why a mom with a clearly disturbed son, who most likely had committed other acts of violence (probably in the privacy of his own home) would stock such an arsenal". After all, when the facts don't bolster your viewpoint, you can always make them up. For Adam had no criminal record. Beyond 10-year-old temper tantrums – typical for Asperger's children – we lack even hearsay evidence that this kid was ever violent before. No one claims there were "warning signs".
Even the oft-printed assertion that Nancy frequently took her sons to shooting ranges is not bearing scrutiny. At a nearby range, police pored for hours over every sign-in, and found no Lanza at target practice in 2012.
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