Nearly a month has passed since the tragic school massacre in Newtown, CT. Most of the response has focused on controlling sales of assault weapons. This is a good thing. It can limit the lethality of attacks — automatic guns do more damage than knives. But it will do nothing to prevent violence.
To get at the turning points in the years-long chain of events that led a young, isolated, desperate man to kill his mother, 20 six- and seven-year-old children, six adults and then himself, we need to ask more questions. Questions about what happened to Adam Lanza when he was a child. Questions about his relationships with his mother, Nancy Lanza, and the rest of his immediate and extended family. Questions about whether the community that he grew up in was aware of his troubles and his troubled family, and if and how they helped.
The last 15 years of research about how adverse childhood experiences cause adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence is unequivocal. To understand what happened to Adam Lanza, we have to ask difficult questions. Dr. Vincent Felitti, one of the two principal investigators in the CDC’s groundbreaking Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, noted: “Most of us have been well-taught that it would be terribly rude to inquire, thus often allowing monstrous events to proceed unrecognized.”
Here are the questions, with short explanations of why each is important. At the end, a larger view of how asking these questions can help us prevent another Newtown, CT, massacre.
Was Adam actually diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist?
It has been reported that Adam Lanza had Asperger’s (now officially referred to as being on the autism spectrum), which by itself does not lead to violence. So, something else was going on. Did a trauma-informed professional do the diagnosis, i.e., someone