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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What We Know About Sandy Hook

Police at Sandy Hook
The official police investigation into the killer behind the Sandy Hook massacre has closed and the final report offer frustratingly few answers. Authorities found no evidence that he'd ever spoken about any plans to commit the crime to anyone else, but that this crime was committed for reasons we'll never know. He'd had no contact with anyone at the school, so it couldn't have been some argument or feud. And the "violent video games" theory? Adam Lanza seemed obsessed with only one video game in particular, according to CNN.

But while many of his video games were violent, others were not. For months before the killings at Sandy Hook, he would go to a movie theater on weekends to play the dance game "Dance Dance Revolution" for hours, the report recounts.
Maybe he was playing violent video games at home. But so do plenty of other people. Only one went out and committed an unimaginably horrific crime. If a video game drove him to a murderous state of mind, there's more evidence that video game was "Dance Dance Revolution" than "Call of Duty."


However, much of what we do know is damning. Lanza was isolated by his own mental health issues. And those issues could not have been helped by the fact that his mother was a gun-obsessed survivalist. For a young man with mental health issues, having the only person who was really in his day to day life be so far removed in her world view from anything resembling reality can't possibly have been helpful. And the presence of an arsenal of real guns proved far more deadly than any games involving imaginary ones. CNN again:

On December 14, 2012, the morning after Nancy Lanza had returned from a trip to New Hampshire, her son shot her four times in the head with a .22-caliber rifle. Then it was off to the school where he once had been a relatively happy child, packing four other guns and nearly 500 rounds of ammunition. He fired more than 150 shots from a .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle before turning a 10mm Glock pistol on himself once police arrived, according to the report.
That's what we know. Anything about video games or mental illness or parenting is speculation. The one thing we know about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School is that it was carried out by someone with more ammo than any responsible person could possibly need, fired from the barrel of a gun designed to shoot that ammunition into human bodies at the fastest rate possible without being fully automatic. Lanza's ability to fire bullets into kids and teachers was limited only by the speed at which he could pull the trigger and the capacity of his magazine. Those meager limitations proved to be no impediment.

That's what we know. When Lanza went from classroom to classroom, gunning down kids, we know he didn't use a video game. He used a .223-caliber Bushmaster assault rifle. That's what we know. That's pretty much all we know.

You'd think that this knowledge would be enough to do drive us to something. But that would be discounting the bottomless cowardice of people like Lanza's mother who collect ridiculously dangerous guns under the impression --now tragically proven inaccurate-- that each one she owned enhanced her safety. And it would be discounting the tremendous evil of gun manufacturers and lobbyists who, like Big Tobacco before them, are completely comfortable with profit margins being inflated by death tolls. And it would be discounting the mendacity of rightwing media trolls, whose only real argument is "liberals are always wrong," which forces them to oppose even the most common sense solutions to gun violence -- or anything else, for that matter.

That's what we know. We know Adam Lanza was able to carry out the massacre because he was able to gain access to weapons which by no stretch of even the most inventive spinmeister's imagination enhanced anyone's safety that day. And we know that there are people, whether through greed or cowardice or plain stupidity, who are more than willing to leave that as the status quo. And because of them, something like this will happen again.

That's what we know.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]

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