The Connecticut’s Office of The Child Advocate has released its report on Adam Lanza (AL). The reports look at the care given the spree killer before he murdered 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. It starts with a call for gun control. “The conclusion cannot be avoided that access to guns is relevant to an examination of ways to improve the public health,” the authors assert. “Access to assault weapons with high capacity magazines did play a major role in this and other mass shootings in recent history . . .
Our emphasis on AL’s developmental trajectory and issues of mental illness should not be understood to mean that these issues were considered more important than access to these weapons or that we do not consider such access to be a critical public health issue.. .
And then, in virtually the same breath . . .
This report will identify missed opportunities in the life of AL. Authors underscore however that only AL was responsible for his murderous actions at Sandy Hook. There can be no direct line drawn between one entity or person’s actions and a mass murder. [Bold italics by the authors.]
As TTAG reader CJ points out in his email, “The authors advocate collectively punishing gun owners, even though they admit they didn’t study that aspect of this crime, and then just two short paragraphs later want to absolve the specific health care professionals who missed opportunities in Lanza’s care, because Lanza’s actions were his own.”
The intro states, “It is vital to note that AL was completely untreated in the years before the shooting and did not receive sustained, effective services during critical periods of his life.” The report chronicles some 16 years of failed, abandoned and incomplete treatment by dozens of mental health professionals and the school system.
When he was 14, AL’s parents and school officials sent AL to the Yale Child Center. The experts warned that without proper treatment, AL faced “a deteriorating life of dysfunction and isolation.” Both AL’s father and the school ignored Yale’s recommendations for “extensive special education supports, ongoing expert consultation, and rigorous therapeutic supports embedded into AL’s daily life.” Instead, the school placed AL on “homebound” status through his education plan, “a placement for children that are too disabled, even with supports and accommodations, to attend school.”
As the school abandoned AL, his father followed suit. You may not sympathize with the mass murderer’s plight prior to his heinous crime, but the boy suffered from OCD, anorexia, Asperger’s and plain old loneliness. Removed from society and all treatment, AL’s sense of isolation increased. AL became the proverbial nutter in the attic, only in the basement, playing violent video games and collecting clippings on mass murder. As far as his “caregivers” were concerned, AL was out of sight, out of mind. And, clearly, out of his mind.
The report’s timeline is so damning that the authors felt obliged to repeat their claim that the repeated failure by health care and education workers to treat AL – never mind treat him effectively – in no way indicates that they bear any responsibility for AL’s killing spree. Point 31 (of 37), once again bolded and italicized.
This report suggests the role that weaknesses and lapses in the educational and healthcare systems’ response and untreated mental illness played in AL’s deterioration. No direct line of causation can be drawn from these to the horrific mass murder at Sandy Hook.
And, in conclusion . . .
While authors describe the predisposing factors and compounding stresses in AL’s life, authors do not conclude that they add up to an inevitable arc leading to mass murder. There is no way to adequately explain why AL was obsessed with mass shootings and how or why he came to act on this obsession. In the end, only he, and he alone, bears responsibility for this monstrous act.
I’m not so sure. Let me put it this way: if I was one of the psychiatrists or educators who knew AL and did nothing to stop his slide into murderous madness I would not be sleeping well at night.
What’s more, the authors’ desire to absolve dozens of people who interacted with a clearly crazy AL does not bode well for the future. Yes, the report makes numerous recommendations to see that future AL’s don’t “slip” through the [wholly inadequate] mental health care net. But without real accountability, lessons will not be learned. History will be repeated. [h/t CJ]