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.
BEFORE YOU GO
12/17/2012 4:43 PM EST
Details On Funeral And Burial Process
The president of the Connecticut Funeral Director's Association said the funeral and burial process for Newtown victims, which began Monday with the separate burials of Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, who both were six-years-old, is unlike anything he has seen before.
"I've unfortunately seen lots of kids who have died," said Pasquale Forino, 46, who runs Neilan Funeral Home in New London, Conn. "But this truly shakes your foundation to the core, and in a small town like Newtown, they need lots of help to handle this week of burials."
Forino and a group of morticians who have volunteered have driven to Newtown every day since Friday to help tend to families who are grieving and prepare arriving bodies for viewings and burials. The main funeral home in the town, Honan Funeral Home, is handling the process for 11 victims. Of those, Forino said he has worked on three -- all kids.
"It's not about me, it's about the families and victims. But it still affects us," he said. "We do what we can do to take care of the families. We'll deal with our own emotional needs later."
--HuffPost's Jaweed Kaleem
12/17/2012 4:42 PM EST
Officials: Local School Building Will Be Safe For Sandy Hook Students
Sandy Hook School students will be attending Chalk Hill School in Monroe, CT as an alternative education facility in the wake of the shooting. Monroe police answered questions during a press conference briefing about the preparations of the building for use by Sandy Hook Elementary School, and outlined how police officers will keep children safe and secure on their first day back to school.
12/17/2012 4:41 PM EST
Time to Rise Up and Say 'Enough' to Gun Violence
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, a New Jersey columnist urges people and politicians to fight for stronger gun control laws.
"Every time there is a mass shooting, we shake our heads and bemoan the tragic violence. We wonder aloud why our elected officials cannot stanch the flow of weapons. We rue the fact that there are so many troubled individuals out there, desperate for help and poised to commit terrible crimes, for no apparent reason. But nothing ever changes," she writes. "This holiday season, can we all rise up as one and say ENOUGH?"
12/17/2012 1:57 PM EST
NH Sen. Shaheen: 'We Need to Get Assault Weapons Off Our Streets'
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, issued a statement Monday in the wake of last week's school shooting in Newtown, Conn., saying it's time to get assault weapons off the streets.
"After a heartbroken weekend where the nation grieved with the families of Newtown, it's time for elected leaders to come together and determine what we can do to help end the culture of violence that is leading to these tragedies," Shaheen said. "We need a comprehensive approach that includes improving access to mental health services, better enforcement of our current laws, and we need to get deadly assault weapons off our streets."
12/17/2012 1:56 PM EST
NIH Study: Only 1/2 Kids In U.S. With Severe Mental Illness Get Treatment
A nationally representative face-to-face survey of more than 10,000 teens ages 13-18 turned up alarming findings about their access to professional mental health care.
Only about one-third of those with any lifetime mental disorder got professional help, and just half of those severely impaired by mental disorders received professional help, the study found. State and federal efforts to increase youth mental health services aren't working, it said. Racial and ethnic minority youth were least likely to get help, the study found.
-- HuffPost's David Wood
12/17/2012 1:54 PM EST
Crowds Forming at Services for Sandy Hook Victims
Via Newtown Patch:
Lines are forming outside funeral homes in Newtown, Fairfield and Monroe, CT as people assemble to pay their respects to three 6-year-olds who were among the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14. In Newtown, services for Jack Pinto, 6, are set to start at 1 p.m. In Fairfield, mourners gathered for services for Noah Pozner, 6.
A wake is scheduled today in Monroe for James Mattioli, 6. The three 6-year-olds are the first of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to be laid to rest. Funeral services for the other victims will take place tomorrow and Wednesday.
12/17/2012 1:53 PM EST
Westboro Baptist Church Member: Legalizing Gay Marriage 'Brings the Shooter Like it Did in CT'
The controversial Westboro Baptist Church has announced plans to protest outside of the Anne Arundel Circuit Court on Jan 2.—the first day same-sex couples will be able to wed there. "On that day the court starts committing that abomination that brings the shooter like it did in Connecticut," said Shirley Phelps-Roper, the daughter of the church's founder.
She also made headlines this weekend when she claimed via Twitter that Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter, was sent by God. She told Annapolis Patch, "God keeps sending the shooter."
12/17/2012 1:53 PM EST
AFT Urges Michigan Gov. Snyder To Veto Gun-In-Schools Bill
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and AFT Michigan President David Hecker on Sunday urged Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Sunday to veto legislation that would allow concealed firearms in schools and other locations.
The tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, is a “chilling and heartbreaking reminder” that “firearms have absolutely no place in our schools,” they wrote. “Gov. Snyder, please show the kind of leadership that students, families, educators and community members need to be as safe as possible in their schools. You can set an example for Michigan and the nation by taking this small but significant step to reduce gun violence by vetoing S.B. 59.”
View the letter here.
12/17/2012 10:23 AM EST
Small Acts Of Kindness
@ TVMarci :
Wow. Someone from CA just called the #Newtown General Store saying she wants to buy coffee for everyone in town. Every cup is billed to her
@ TVMarci :
Clerk @ #Newtown General Store started crying when woman offered to pay for every coffee purchased today. What an amazing #actofkindness
@ TVMarci :
This sign now hangs in front of the #Newtown General Store. Thank you, Tom Cabanaugh! #actofkindess http://t.co/DsLk5B2W
12/17/2012 10:20 AM EST
Police: Suspicious Person Puts Ridgefield Schools On Lockdown
Reports of a suspicious person at the Branchfield train station in Ridgefield Monday morning brought out police and placed all local schools on lockdown. Authorities, along with a K-9 unit, are canvassing the area after receiving a report of a man with an unknown item slung over his back. Police were first informed of the suspicious person at about 9 a.m.