What was Adam Lanza’s motive?

Mary Ann Glynn adBy Mary Ann Glynn, LCSW

If we have recovered enough from past mass killings and felt safe once more, here we are again. An even more heinous massacre, families and a community destroyed for years, even generations to come. Sweet innocent children shot down in a bloody horror, and the adults who tried to protect them. Families who may never recover fully from the devastation of trauma and loss. Generations in Newtown to come that will resonate with it. A community that will perhaps never experience the magic of Christmas again. The children left who now have gone from a safe secure existence to a reality in which terrifying things are not in a distant fairy tale, they are real in whose forming brains are now wired with the moment in which their lives were about to end, and witnessed others’ lives that did end, and the guilt of survival. A nation feeling increasingly that we are never really safe. All of this created in a few short minutes by one disturbed young man.

Notice how the media are looking for “reasons” why Adam Lanza would commit such a horrific act. Was it that there were guns in the house? Did he play too many violent video games? Is he mentally ill? Was he abused or neglected? Some are pointing to gun laws and the mental illness system as faulty, or to the “violence of our culture,” meaning movies and video games desensitizing children to violence. But let’s be honest: you or I or anyone with a conscience can watch violent movies or play violent video games every day for years on end and still never have it in us to harm another person. Indeed, we witness much worse violence on a daily basis in the news much worse because it is real and this does not make us want to go out and kill someone. In the military, in preparing young people to go to war, they deliberately desensitize them to violence. Does this prevent them from experiencing the horror of killing someone in actual experience? Not for anyone with a conscience! They still come back with PTSD and are haunted their whole lives from it.

Perhaps, yes, there should be a heightening of background checks for those who purchase guns, including checking registries for psychiatric wards, and the types of guns available. And, yes, I agree that we have to stop with the worries about family privacy and start screening early on in schools for signs of potential future violence in children, in the hopes of intervening in those children’s lives to prevent future violence.

Make no mistake about it, the mental health system is severely lacking in this country. I worked for years as a supervisor in homes for the chronic mentally ill, then in an outpatient program for those with dual diagnosis, i.e., an addiction and a mental illness. We do not have enough resources and housing for the mentally ill, nor help for families dealing with it. But statistics show that many more mentally ill people kill themselves than in the normal population, while violence is less prevalent among the mentally ill, contrary to myths claiming the opposite. A violent psychotic person is actually a rare thing. Someone who commits violence while in a psychotic break from reality, such as Son of Sam, is quite rare. Also, those with autism or Aspberger’s syndrome, which it is rumored the perpetrator may have had, are not known for violence. While those disorders do have the characteristic, to different degrees, of decreased social skills and connection because of the way their brains are formed, and they do tend to have “meltdowns’ from their nervous system sensitivity, they rarely harm anyone.

Let’s look at the statistics for people who are abused. Probability would suggest that the majority of you reading this have had some form of abuse in your past. The majority of clients I interview have. The statistics for sexual abuse alone are about 1 in 3 or 4 for girls, and about half of that for boys. Then there are the other forms of abuse: ongoing verbal or physical abuse by parents, siblings or others, parental neglect, bullying, the abuse of one parent by another, neighborhood violence — all forms of abuse or trauma. Then there are other factors that can cause vulnerabilities in coping, such as the divorce or death of parents, a mental illness, an autism spectrum disorder, a learning disability causing school failure, the lack of support. But, if I asked a roomful of people if they have experienced one or more of these things, most would raise their hands. How many of those people would go out and harm, never mind kill, someone?

All of the questions the media are asking appear to be confusion and the unfathomability of trying to wrap their minds around such an unspeakable act. My intention here is not to judge Adam Lanza, or the circumstances that may have contributed to his trigger to plan a massacre. But those who have experienced harm of varying degrees by a socio/psychopath (i.e. someone without a conscience) know this for sure: In spite of any “reasons” or precipitating factors that may contribute, the socio/psychopaths’ method to feel good with themselves (i.e. to avoid their pain) at the expense of another person is a choice in destruction.

It comes down to this: Adam Lanza made an evil choice. Once the sick seed was planted and grew in his mind of how he could glorify himself by feeling all-powerful over human life, releasing his rage, and going down in history as committing one of the most notoriously heinous crimes in our nation, apparently nothing was going to stop him. And the rest of us have to live with the fallout of his vile choice forever.

Comment on this article

32 Comments on "What was Adam Lanza’s motive?"

Notify of


Great story…thanks! Yeah, you gotta love the media…NOT! I never listen to the news anymore. I haven’t for about six months now.

Spoon, GREAT article…there are several of those types of things happen every year where there is someone who is a concealed carry permit holder or an off duty cop who thwarts a mass killer before he can do the deed. Yep, they do NOT make the national news.

The guy who killed the fire fighters had ILLEGAL GUNS and Lanza had STOLEN guns (from his mom) and violated the NO GUN ZONE around the school…so what good do gun LAWS do in these cases? The bad guy ignored the law or gets around them..UGH! They did find the woman who bought the guns for the guy who killed the fire men, she KNEW he was an ex con and did it any way. In my opinion, SHE is guilty of murder. They did arrest her not sure what her charges are, but in my opinion, they should be murder…life without parole.

Send this to a friend