The Corner

Final Thoughts on Sandy Hook

The Sandy Hook Report makes horrifying but necessary reading. The main takeaway? That there is little that free and open societies can realistically do to prevent great acts of evil. This is politically difficult for those charged with “doing something!” to acknowledge, yes. But that it is bewildering doesn’t render it untrue.

Last year, we were actively instructed to believe that discredited and intrusive gun-control measures were the obvious response to the massacre. This was preposterous then, and it is preposterous now. As Emily Miller notes at the Washington Times, the report shows that:

all the guns and the ammunition were legally bought by the shooter’s mother, Nancy LanzaLanza 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 that 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 horrible thing needs acknowledging before we can have any sensible conversation: That is that, if you walk with two handguns into a room full of small children and unarmed teachers, you can kill as many of them as you want. In fact, if you walk with a handgun into a room full of soldiers you can apparently kill as many of them as you want. As the reports show, both Adam Lanza and Major Hasan were stopped when the police arrived — “a good guy with a gun arrived” in the vernacular — and their force was met with greater force. That is how this works, pretty much every time. This is why, knowing that there is not going to be a full-scale gun ban in a country in which such a ban would be constitutionally illegal and practically impossible, the NRA talks about armed guards.

Adam Lanza was an extremely disturbed young man whom, the report argues, was obsessed with school shootings. Lanza did not just happen to see the guns in his mother’s house and decide capriciously to shoot up a school, but he planned an attack well in advance. If he hadn’t had an AR-15, he’d have used the two pistols he took with him (illegally, of course, as he was under 21) – as Major Hasan did in Texas; if he hadn’t had those, he’d have used the shotgun – as Aaron Alexander did at the Navy Yard; and if he hadn’t had any of those, he’d have used something else. That is what insane people do.

America certainly has a mental-health problem, and Lanza was clearly a problem child. Per Fox:

Nobody was allowed into his bedroom, not even to clean, according to the report. The windows of the room were covered with black trash bags. The report also said Lanza also disliked birthdays, Christmas and holidays and did not like to have his hair cut.

He also wouldn’t touch doorknobs, his food had to be arranged on the plate in a certain way, and he changed clothes and washed his hands often during the day. He was a loner at school and was repelled by crowds and loud noises. His mother got rid of a cat because her son didn’t want it in the house.,

This notwithstanding, I’m not sure that one can blame the mother. It has been widely and correctly reported that Lanza had Asperger’s syndrome, which is a disorder on the autistic spectrum. But those with Asperger’s are not known for committing acts of violence at a higher rate than the general population. Are we really going to say that Mrs. Lanza should have seen this coming? The report certainly doesn’t.

The investigator closed the criminal investigation without finding either a clear motive or anyone to charge. This seems a reasonable conclusion. Connecticut, by contrast, closed its brief political investigation by passing a series of restrictive and asinine laws that will annoy the law-abiding, limit the liberty of free men, and do pretty much nothing else. As James Alan Fox writes over at the Boston Globe:

When tragedy strikes, we invariably look to assign blame, and consider all those who may have played a role. And when the perpetrator is dead, we often look for other places to release our collective anger. In this case, Adam Lanza is the culprit, not his mother, not video games, not drugs, not bullying, not lax gun laws. While we might look for strategies that will help dispirited and lonely souls among us, there is, unfortunately, not much that can do in our free society to prevent this rare but uniquely frightening crime.

That, I’m afraid, is the truth of the matter. It is much scarier to acknowledge than is pretending that we have easy answers. But it is the truth nonetheless. 

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