There has been a tendency in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting -- as in most mass shootings –- to point fingers and assign blame for the lost lives.
The shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, is dead. He can face no judgment by man. So who's to blame for the 26 children and adults police say he killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School? Or, for that matter, for the death of his mother at her Newtown, Conn., home?
There are a half-dozen theories floating around, from lax gun laws to video games, from violent music to violence on TV. And, of course, there is the media and its supposed glorification of killers.
The mass shooting in Connecticut is more complicated than a childhood game of "eeny, meeny, miny, moe," according to Scott Bonn, a serial killer expert and assistant professor of sociology at Drew University.
"The public simply can't comprehend how and why someone can do this kind of horrible act," Bonn told The Huffington Post. "It seems completely inhuman. Therefore, there is this burning need to understand why someone would do these things. That's why the finger-pointing starts. It's got to be the media, video games, rap music, or Marilyn Manson (for those who recall the Columbine, Colo., school massacre). We need to point fingers, because as a society it's impossible to comprehend."
The murderers are often referred to as "monsters" of fairytale proportions. President Barack Obama said on Sunday that the Newtown community had faced "unconscionable evil."
The characterization of evil, however, is broad and perhaps all too encompassing.
"What we tend to do, because we can't understand these killers, is define them as monsters," Bonn said. "You almost always see the word 'evil' and 'monster' used in reference to serial killers and mass murderers. This tendency to turn them into these supernatural ghouls obscures the fact that these are really disturbed individuals. It oversimplifies what is a very complicated problem. It obscures the reality of what's going on, and we as a society never make it beyond that. That's why we go on finger-pointing."
According to Bonn, mass murder is not about fame or recognition, but about retaliation. It is about a troubled individual who feels wronged and wants to get even with the perceived individuals or organizations who wronged him or her.
"Mass murder is always about retaliation –- striking back," Bonn said. "That should be at the heart of the discussion -– the fact that these are troubled individuals and what we can do about that.
"It has been said that the prevalence of guns may have contributed to this case," Bonn continued. "But this guy was determined. He killed his own mother before he went out. He took the guns. He was on a mission. Very little was going to stop him. For that matter, there are more guns per capita in Canada and yet they have relatively no homicides compared to the U.S."
SANDY HOOK SHOOTING PHOTOS: (Story Continues Below)
Talking heads and psychologists have appeared in the national media since Friday and have offered opinions that there were likely warning signs that Adam Lanza was going to snap. People have said he was a troubled young man. However, not all troubled young men become mass murderers, and, if history is an indicator, it is nearly impossible to predict a specific individual will become a mass killer.
"It really has a lot to do with our society," Bonn said. "We are a pretty violent society. We have the highest crime and imprisonment rates in the world. Our whole society is based on individualism -– the right to bear arms, the right to speak out, and the right to stand up for yourself. Those are all good things, but on steroids and in the extreme they can lead to confrontation and violence. People fight over parking spaces, clothing, Christmas shopping, etc. We're a society that is very much about 'you get in my face and I'm going to knock you down.' That's the American way. It trickles down to the individual level and I think that sort of fierce independence and individualism can create an environment for violence. A lot of people may not like to hear that but I believe it's true."
Unfortunately, violence is a part of everyday life in America, according to Bonn. While some preventative measures may be available, there is likely little that can be done to stymie the cause.
"It would be very, very difficult to change it," Bonn said. "There's no easy answer. It's woven into the very fabric of our society."
Clarification: Bonn's statement regarding the relative number of guns per capita in the U.S. and Canada was in reference to registered guns, not all guns.
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