Ever since the terrible slaughter of children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, public officials and ordinary citizens have been looking for answers. What can be done to prevent future schoolhouse tragedies?
People are calling for stricter gun control laws, or armed guards in schools. People are lambasting the entertainment industry for producing violent movies and video games, which can desensitize vulnerable teenagers to the real pain of killing. People are advocating more institutionalization of individuals who obviously suffer from mental problems.
Commentator Charles Krauthammer—who is, by the way, a psychiatrist—provided a good analysis of each of these issues, and the legal roadblocks to addressing them, in his column called The roots of mass murder.
With Lovefraud’s focus on psychology, I want to look at this aspect of the tragedy.
What was wrong with Adam Lanza?
By all accounts, Adam Lanza clearly had mental problems. He wouldn’t look people in the eye. A former high school classmate told USAToday that Lanza “walked down the halls against the wall, almost like he was afraid of people.”
Apparently Nancy Lanza, Adam’s mother, believed that her son had Asperger’s syndrome. Ellen Adriani, a friend, told NBC News that “Nancy was always concerned about Adam because of his Asperger’s and the typical behavior that goes along with that.”
Multiple experts, however, have stated that Asperger’s syndrome is not usually associated with violence.
At least one psychiatrist has suggested that Adam Lanza suffered from undiagnosed schizophrenia. Writing for the New York Times, Dr. Paul Steinberg wrote:
Schizophrenia generally rears its head between the ages of 15 and 24, with a slightly later age for females. Early signs may include being a quirky loner — often mistaken for Asperger’s syndrome — but acute signs and symptoms do not appear until adolescence or young adulthood.
Searching for answers, the Connecticut medical examiner has asked scientists at the University of Connecticut to study Adam Lanza’s DNA. Experts point out, however, that Lanza’s genes will not necessarily explain his actions. Behavior is influenced by a multitude of factors—which brings us back to issues like violent entertainment and the easy accessibility of guns and inadequate mental health care.
For more information, read the following articles:
The other killers—sociopaths (psychopaths)
Usually, when I start talking about sociopaths to an uninformed audience—uninformed because, unlike Lovefraud readers, they haven’t directly experienced sociopathic manipulation and betrayal—the first thing I say is that these people are not all deranged serial killers. The fact is, most sociopaths never kill anyone.
However, some sociopaths do kill. Sometimes they kill in particularly brutal and heinous ways. And when they do kill, they do it without any remorse or regret at all.
Take, for example, that other shocking school shooting—Columbine. On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire on classmates in Columbine High School, located in Columbine, Colorado. They murdered 12 students and one teacher.
Much of the early reporting about Columbine said that Harris and Klebold had been bullied and the shooting was an act of revenge against their tormenters. However, according to the FBI analysis of the massacre, this view is incorrect. In an article for Slate, David Cullen wrote that Dylan Klebold was depressive and suicidal, but Eric Harris was a psychopath.
Harris ranted about what he hated in his journal, including “stupid people,” “when people mispronounce words,” and “Star Wars fans.” But, Cullen says, what Harris was really expressing was contempt:
He is disgusted with the morons around him. These are not the rantings of an angry young man, picked on by jocks until he’s not going to take it anymore. These are the rantings of someone with a messianic-grade superiority complex, out to punish the entire human race for its appalling inferiority.
The FBI concluded that Eric Harris was the mastermind of the massacre, and Dylan Klebold the follower. Their objective was to inflict incredible carnage so that they could earn a place for themselves in infamy. Read:
No telltale social problems
The point is that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold did not have the social problems of Adam Lanza. According to Cullen, Harris was “sweet-faced and well-spoken. Adults, and even some other kids, described him as ‘nice.’” Klebold was active in school play productions. Three days before the shooting, he attended his senior prom with a date. The two boys partied with a circle of friends on weekends.
American society should certainly do more to treat people who have obvious mental issues and social phobias. But we have to understand that this will not solve the problem. Many potential killers—the sociopaths—do not exhibit obvious mental problems. On the contrary, they can blend easily into society until they put their deadly plans into action.