Following the slaughter of the innocents at Sandy Hook, there was some muttering very early on concerning a possible connection between mass murderer Adam Lanza, his penchant for playing violent video games and the killing of 20 students and 6 faculty members at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Very quickly, public attention became focused, almost fetishistically, on the kinds of weapons Mr. Lanza brought to the school – two semi-automatic pistols, a semi-automatic Bushmaster long rifle and a shotgun that Mr. Lanza left in the trunk of the car he apparently stole from his mother, whom he murdered before leaving for the school.
One supposes Mr. Lanza did not receive permission from his mother to use her weapons to slaughter 26 people, and it seems reasonable to suppose in the absence of a definitive criminal report -- which inconveniently will not be available until after Connecticut’s General Assembly has enacted bills purporting to thwart possible future Sandy Hooks – that Mr. Lanza came by his cache of weapons through illegal means. State's attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III, who is overseeing the investigation, expects the investigation “will go on for a number of months, but I hope that it can be [finished] within the time frame that I testified to before the Legislature, which is the summer."
In this respect, Mr. Lanza is no different from any criminal who gains unauthorized access to weapons used in any criminal activity. It is the unauthorized use of weapons that is chiefly responsible for the bulk of murders committed with guns in the United States. There is a possible technological solution to the problem of unauthorized gun use. Governor Dannel Malloy, who has been generous in distributing tax dollars to some multi-million dollar firms in Connecticut, so far has not “invested’” any tax dollars to encourage among Connecticut gun manufacturers the production of smart gun technology, which enables the use of a gun only for those designated by the purchaser as authorized users. There are several gun manufacturers in what is still called “the provision state,” so named because revolutionary Connecticut has provided arms to the U.S. government since its founding.
Before leaving for Sandy Hook Elementary, Mr. Lanza took the precaution of destroying the hard drive on his computer. Recent stories indicate that forensic investigators have recovered partial information on two computer drives. It has been said that Mr. Lanza had spent an inordinate amount of time viewing and playing violent video games. A large cache of such games were found in the home early in the investigation.
Other notorious mass murderers in recent years also have been frequent viewers of violence. After his arrest for having shot up a movie theatre in Colorado during a showing of a batman film, 24-year-old James Holmes, reportedly “remained in his murderous “Joker” persona” in jail while awaiting arraignment before a judge.
“He thinks he’s acting in a movie,” a prison employee told the Daily News.
Along with other mass murderers, Mr. Homes may – or may not -- have been taking psychotropic drugs.
The scientific research establishing a connection between violence, suicide and the use of psychotropic drugs is so well established that Sen. Owen H. Johnson in March 2000 was induced to submit to the New York legislature Senate Bill 703 which, according to a summary, “… adds a new section to the New York executive law requiring police agencies to report to the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) on certain crimes and suicides committed by a person who is using psychotropic drugs. These crimes include assault, homicide, sex offenses, robbery offenses, firearms and other dangerous weapons offenses, kidnapping and arson.” Unfortunately, the bill was smothered in the crib after it had been referred to the finance committee. It is not known whether Connecticut’s General Assembly is considering such a bill.
The American Psychological Association reports that “The use of psychotropic drugs by adult Americans increased 22 percent from 2001 to 2010, with one in five adults now taking at least one psychotropic medication, according to industry data.”
Often prescribed in the absence proper evaluations by mental health professionals, psychotropic drugs, along with frequent viewing of violent scenes on videos and movies, some observers believe, very well may be a trip wire in mass murder sprees.
Not surprisingly, former Connecticut U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, now chief lobbyist for the multi-billion dollar motion picture industry, disagrees. Having represented Newtown in the Congress for more than 30 years, Mr. Dodd said in a recent interview that the Sandy Hook slaughter “is much more than an abstraction to me.'' The former senator even now, two months after the event, loses his composure whenever the mass murder is brought to his attention. Even so, business is business: “Movies stimulate, provoke, challenge and educate. The best movies elevate and enrich. They dare us to think differently, to walk uncomfortably in another person's shoes.''
There are lots of empty shoes in Sandy Hook.