He was shy, quiet and socially awkward. He rarely spoke. He was isolated, disturbed, and couldn't bear to be touched. His mother was devoted, yet misguided.
In the past two years these words have been used over and over to define a mother, and the son who took her guns and murdered 20 children and six adults in five minutes at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Ever since that horrific incident on Dec. 14, 2012, we all have tried to understand what happened, why and how to stop it from happening again. We as a nation have debated whether or not the gunman's mental health diagnosis played a role. We have pondered whether better access to mental health care could have prevented the killings.
Even if Adam Lanza had access to the very best mental healthcare, it's impossible to predict the success of that treatment. The only thing we know that could have saved the lives of 20 children and six adults is if Adam Lanza didn't have easy access to guns. No one in the shooter's life, let alone his own mother, recognized the danger of allowing him to have easy access to guns. Their ignorance had dire consequences.
Even in its thorough report identifying the missed opportunities to provide Adam Lanza with mental health care, the Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate opined, "It is reasonable to wonder what actions AL would have taken and whether the Sandy Hook tragedy could have occurred at all if he had not had unfettered access to significant weaponry and ammunition."
We cannot ignore this simple truth: Too many shootings occur because improper weight is given to the risks that come with gun ownership, particularly in homes with children and teens. A gun in the home increases the risk of an unintentional shooting, suicide and homicide. Hundreds of children and teens take their own lives every year with guns. Nine children are shot unintentionally every day. Most of these tragedies happen with a parent's gun.
And, in the case of Adam Lanza, a gun in the home enabled him to kill 20 children and six adults. The tragedy at Sandy Hook fit a deadly pattern that is often overlooked: The gun came from the home of the attacker or a relative.
A recent report by the Brady Campaign/Center showed that in two-thirds of school shootings, the attacker's gun came from a parent's home or the home of a relative. This is the case for recent shootings including those in Marysville, Washington; Troutdale, Oregon; Roswell, New Mexico; Sparks, Nevada; and Taft, California and, of course, Newtown Connecticut. The simple fact is we can prevent many of these tragedies by helping families understand these serious safety risks so they make better choices around gun ownership and access.
As we, as a nation, solemnly acknowledge the two-year anniversary of the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, there will be significant and important conversations about policy and mental health. However, if our goal is, as it should be, to put an end to these terrible tragedies once and for all, and to prevent something so unthinkable from ever happening again, we must shine a much brighter spotlight on how we as a nation look at youth access to guns in the home.
Those of us in a position to intervene and educate -- from parents, relatives and friends, to mental health professionals, teachers and school officials -- can play a vital role to ensure that all parents understand the real safety risks of guns in the home and that no child has unsafe access to those guns.