Question of the Day: Could the Newtown, CT Killer Have Been Stopped?

 

The above image is from a porno-friendly file sharing website called uselessjunk.com. There’s no confirmation that the post is genuine, but it’s entirely possible that Newtown Connecticut spree killer Adam Lanza left these two messages as an anonymous warning of his plan to commit mass murder or, at the least, kill himself. If so, it’s easy to understand how readers wouldn’t take it seriously. The site isn’t exactly the kind of place you’d expect mental health professional to troll for messed-up minds—although God knows you’ll find some there. And here. And everywhere. And even if they did, what then? I’m not sure uselessjunk.com would surrender the poster’s IP address without a warrant. And if they could have, should they? In any case, the post raises an important question than privacy issues or shot-in-the-dark crime prevention . . .

Could Adam Lanza have been stopped? On one hand, it’s a maddening question of luck. A simple twist of fate could have stopped Lanza in his tracks. For example . . .

Lanza had a couple of speeding tickets on his record (and that’s all). What if a cop had pulled him over for speeding on the way to the school? Maybe the cop would have noticed the guns or his demeanor and arrested him on-the-spot.

What if someone had discovered the murder scene Lanza left behind before the killer made it to the school, put two-and-two together and called Sandy Hook Elementary with a warning?

What if someone at Sandy Hook had seen Lanza at the school before, got a bad vibe, and happened to be the one who buzzes the door? Maybe he or she could have thought, nope. Not gonna do it.

What if, what if, what if. In the aftermath of this heinous crime, millions of Americans are wondering “what if” in regard to the Newtown massacre. As well they should. Considering prevention strategies in the wake of disaster or potential disaster is part of the learning process that keeps us alive; as individuals, families, communities and countries.

But we should spend that mental energy wisely.

The gun control industry wants us to wonder “what if Adam Lanza couldn’t get a gun?” Of all the possible retrospective analysis, that’s one of the least fruitful. There are too many guns in circulation to worry about restricting access to a determined madman. And too many other ways to kill.

Many gun rights advocates would have us wonder “what if a teacher had been armed?” That’s a far more effective line of enquiry, but I think it needs to be seen in the wider context. As in “what if we took our children’s safety more seriously?”

If we did, we’d make a lot of changes. And I don’t just mean locking our schools’ front doors, modifying and practicing active shooter drills (which clearly failed in this case), paying more attention to the people in a school community, adding more trained guards, arming teachers, etc. I mean all of it.

Security is an onion. The best security is a dynamic system. It’s alert and alive and responds to threats on an ongoing evolutionary, adaptive, reactive and proactive basis; based on an ever-changing, as-comprehensive-as-possible plan. Comprehensive as in everyone’s on board.

And now, one hopes, everyone will be on board. Sad to say, but the more attacks like this one at Sandy Hook, the more schools will modify their security. The more mental health professionals will consider their charges. The more the cops will adjust their tactics and techniques.

The more gun control we’ll have? Hopefully not. Taking firearms out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, restricting their ability to carry them, reduces our options for protecting our children and ourselves from spree killers, criminals and our own government. And that’s the truth.

None of which answers the question that worries us like the hole where a tooth used to be. Could Adam Lanza have been stopped? Yes and no. Unfortunately, that’s how life is. A crap shoot with evil lurking in the shadows. Eternally.

Am I wrong?

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

45 Responses to Question of the Day: Could the Newtown, CT Killer Have Been Stopped?

  1. avatarm.ia says:

    Nope. You are right. I don’t understand why I’m not allowed to concealed carry within 1000 feet of the school I pick up my 6 yr old from every day. I live about 10 blocks from that school. At best I can have my knife which can only reach about 3 inches past my grip on it. Or I have to break the law. My town has a rather large police force for its size. But that only goes so far. Someone could easily mow us down while we wait outside to pick up our children. I’d prefer to be the master of my destiny. Not subject to the wills of a psycho.

    • avatarsteve says:

      I think that depends on the state, my state I can drive in with the firearm, just cant exit the vehicle, with or without.

      • avatarm.ia says:

        I have to get out of the vehicle to get my child or I just walk to the school. But it does depend on the state. Either way it makes no sense to me.

    • avatarRandy Drescher says:

      Thank goodness we can carry here (with a permit) right up to the school. There seems to be some sort of school every 3 feet, Randy

  2. avatarsanchanim says:

    I don’t think he could have been stopped, just mitigated.

    • avatarCarlosT says:

      The Israelis have stopped this kind of thing by allowing the schools to defend themselves. The sooner someone intervenes, the sooner the killing stops. Once people realize attacking a school is quick, anonymous suicide rather than slow, attention-getting suicide, it will lose its appeal.

  3. avatarDryw says:

    Is has been reported that Lanza was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and was administered SSRIs as part of the treatment.

    Lack of emotional reciprocity combined with reduced sympathy/empathy and a sense of detachment. This was a bomb, waiting for a fuse.

    Stopped? If not the school, somewhere else. If not firearms, a broken broomstick handle and a can of gasoline.

    • avatarChris says:

      Every one of these rampage killers leaves behind a trail of months or years of threats, violence, and/or other erratic behavior which their family, friends, co-workers, and teachers chose to ignore.

      Why? Convenience? Fear of causing harm to someone who is already suffering a severe illness? Stigma?

      Get the person the attention they need. If nothing is wrong, they will still get help in how to control their unusual behavior. If something is wrong, you might have just saved a lot of lives including your own.

    • avatarRalph says:

      Asperger’s Syndrome probably did not drive that man to kill — at least, that’s what the data indicates. Asperger’s kids are much more likely to be victimized than be violent. But some who are diagnosed with Asperger’s are misdiagnosed, or they have something else also going on, like schizophrenia.

      Life and death don’t mean much in a world where there’s no objective reality.

      • avatarDryw says:

        Completely agreed. Did not intend to insinuate Asperger’s sufferers were prone to violence. In fact, I know two people personally who have been diagnosed as such. Both have varying degrees of difficulty understanding empathetic social queues, but are otherwise completely ‘normal’

        The introduction of SSRIs, which can promote violent and/or suicidal outbursts in certain patients, combined with a lack of empathetic ‘compass’ or checkpoint, is a recipe for disaster.

        Your suggestion of misdiagnosis is food-for-thought.

        • avatarRalph says:

          FYI, I know a shrink who has Asperger’s. She can’t look anyone in the eye and is socially awkward, but very smart and from what I’ve heard, she’s a really good doctor.

        • avatarmchad says:

          And according to new psychiatric diagnostic manual, aspergers no longer exists…it is now high functioning “autistic spectrum disorder”

        • avatarDryw says:

          Interesting. It was they themselves who used the term. I was completely unaware of the syndrome prior.

          Perhaps less social stigma than “autistic spectrum disorder”?

    • avatarWalk Softly says:

      The answer is clear, then, we MUST ban Asperger’s Syndrome! Is that possible? Well, er, no, I suppose not. Would it be effective? Uh, guess not. But it might make people FEEL better. Which, apparently, is paramount and why we need this mythical “gun control” all of these ignorant sheep are calling for in some circles.

  4. avatarDon says:

    Had he gone after someone’s money or boxes of cigarettes at a gas station he would have been confronted with force immediately. But since he just went after our children who we don’t care to protect at at least the same level as a box of cigarettes there was no one there to stop him.

  5. avatarCarlosT says:

    I thought the Connecticut guy was Lanza and Jacobs was the Oregon guy.

  6. avatarensitu says:

    Roger Ebert’s review of the 2003 Van Sant movie “Elephant” contains some of the most coherent criticism of the way the media reports mass killings I’ve yet read:
    Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, “that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?” The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.
    The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”
    In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.

    • avatarPete says:

      After watching CNN over the last 2 days, I agree that the media are sensationalizing this sad event. They are definitely part of the problem.
      In the last 40 years, I’ve met quite a number of gun owners who I qualify as amateurs. They are pretty scary. The signs are always the same: a little too passionate about gun ownership, they seem to feel empowered by their guns,
      A lot of times they want to show their guns. Over the years I’ve come to think very few people should be allowed to carry guns. I’ve started to really believe that only ex-military and ex-police should be allowed to own guns. They have the proper training and I’ve never met one of them who exhibited the signs I mentioned before. Gun ownership really shouldn’t be a right, it should be a privalage entrusted to experts with extensive training.
      You know it’s going to happen within the next few years: someone is going to pull out a gun in the commission of a crime and they’ll be in a room full of amateur gun owners. There will be a shoot out and a lot of innocent people will be dead or wounded as a result. I say leave the guns to experts.

  7. avatarAharon says:

    I think that I recognize that photo from an article (maybe a couple years ago) on a Men’s Movement site that ran a story how the teenage male suicide rate in America has increased 3-fold or 300% since the 1970s.

    There is an article on HP that quoted others as stating Adam Lanza was academically brilliant (and nerdy, a goth, semi-loner-type). That he did not have a criminal record and unlike other reports this story claimed he did not have a history of emotional/mental problems.

  8. avatarJoseph B Campbell says:

    You can “what if ” all you want. It’s done. Bury the children and console the families. Plan corrections for future attacks.

  9. avatarAharon says:

    “Adam Lanza, 20, went to a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Danbury, Conn., on Tuesday to buy the weapon, but was turned down because he didn’t want to undergo a background check or abide by the state’s waiting period for gun sales, the officials said.

    The officials said he had four handguns on him as he stormed the 600-student school and shot his victims – clustered in two classrooms – at close range”

    http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/15/15926718-newtown-gunman-tried-to-buy-rifle-days-before-shooting?lite

  10. avatarChris says:

    Massacres will only occur at the places where security is weakest, and is insufficient to prevent them.

    This statement should be so obvious that anyone asking “why here, why now?” immediately smacks themselves in the face. Duh, this is why they attack schools and other Gun Free Zones.

    As there will always be that tiny portion of the population who are ill and violent, there will always be mass murderers. Those murderers will always target the most vulnerable available people and locations. There will always be locations and people who are most vulnerable.

    It’s not society, it’s not the guns, it’s the same rare violent mental illness that has always plagued mankind. We just see it more as we live in denser communities and the few individuals gain ever greater impact over other lives. Even rampage killings are not new. The worst school killing in US history was 84 years ago in the Bath Township school massacre of 1928 where 44 people died and 58 were injured.

  11. avatarWyatt says:

    Looks like UselessJunk is hosting a picture that’s actually a screengrab of a different board, 4chan.

  12. avatarRadomHero says:

    thats a 4chan post with a screengrab hosted by useless junk. its been floating around online a few different places with the useless junk logo.

  13. avatarFrank says:

    Note to TTAG editor: 4chan is not a credible source on anything.

  14. Newton?
    Jacobs?

    For a site that bills itself as purveying the ‘truth’ perhaps you could get some basic facts straight. Like the name of the town. And the name of the shooter.

    You have made some serious mistakes on this story and you continue to get basic facts wrong.

    • avatarAharon says:

      That information is good to post accurately yet not nearly as important and as vital as the big-picture mission of this site “to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.” The entire post is more important than reporting those two names accurately. Currently, the staff of this site is very busy (far busier than normal) scrambling to honestly and objectively cover the recent shooting of this sad tragedy amid an America media industry that is usually biased and ignorant, and politically agenda-driven.

      Any other questions or comments?

      • So you are arguing that facts and accuracy don’t matter? Because they are busy?

        Sorry, mate: I don’t buy it.

        • avatarSammy says:

          I thing the items you site Mr Miller could very well be typos. If you are looking for top shelf fact distortion please refer to MSNBC, CNN, The Brady Campaign, Diane Fienstine’s Web page, and that’s just for starters….mate.

          Just 2 questions. Are you a gun owner? Are you allowed to own guns where you reside?

        • avatarAharon says:

          JM,

          You need to go back and re-read what I wrote or work on your reading retention. I did Not state facts and accuracy do not matter. I said that there is more important information to convey than what you were complaining about as in covering the big picture debate about gun rights and gun controls, crime, etc. No one here cares what you buy or don’t buy.

        • Yes Sammy, I own guns.

          I like accurate shooting. And accurate journalism.

        • Aharon: you know nobody here cares? You are obviously so brilliant to know what everybody cares about. How can one argue with such a know–it-all?

  15. avatarRalph says:

    Question of the Day: Could the Newtown, CT Killer Have Been Stopped?

    Answer of the Day: Yes. With treatment and confinement if necessary.

    • avatarJoe says:

      Will another mass shooting be prevented? Sad answer is no. The nation is focused on the wrong or ineffective solution. The discussion on TTAG is way better than the inane discussions prompted by leading questions on mainstream outlets.

  16. avatarAharon says:

    Now MSNBC is reporting how the shooter was home schooled for a time as if that makes a shooter. Funny, how the mass media does not report 99% of criminals being exclusively government public school students. The media described the mother as a “survivalist” worried about economic collapse. “She even enjoyed taking her children to shooting ranges”.

  17. avatarSammy says:

    Can new awb be stopped? I don’t understand how it will protect people who choose to be defenseless (not referring to the kids at Newtown or anywhere else, just the adults) by making everyone defenseless. With crime on the rise gun confiscation will not help most honest folks. It will make criminals with guns a new threat that will be difficult to deal with. And even if these gun law violators are charged don’t expect much in the way of punishment for them, unless they belong to the NRA and are caught with a gun for self preservation.

  18. avatareugene says:

    Just a little article I stumbled upon in my ever-non-stop stream of debates via facebook posts… http://www.skyvalleychronicle.com/BREAKING-NEWS/WHAT-DOES-SCIENCE-SAY-ABOUT-GUN-CONTROL-AND-GUN-VIOLENCE-1203207

    I actually find this to be pretty legit given the publication and the professor’s background. Must be a hero for being able to work at the university for so long…

  19. avatarBC; MT says:

    >2012
    >even contemplating the authenticity of anything related to 4chan

  20. avatarWmc says:

    Frontsite is offering free for training for up to 3 safety officers from schools and universities. As in 3 from each in America. I don’t know much about them, but it sounds good.

  21. avatarSteven says:

    Just so you guys know, the image is NOT from uselessjunk, but rules 1&2, but I digress. The image you see is in fact photoshopped. The thread that appears in the pic never existed, the post number says 443521730 on Wednesday 12/12/12
    while theres a post dated 12/14/12 that has a post number 443511730 on the website.

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