Lessons from Sandy Hook: Parental Responsibility

After reading through the Connecticut State Police‘s report on the Sandy Hook Elementary School attack, I am very much convinced that the mother of the killer, Nancy Lanza was woefully negligent in how she dealt with her son, Adam Lanza and in how she stored the firearms that she owned.

Adam Lanza’s Room. It has the feel of a prison cell.

“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”

-Proverbs 13:24

Nancy Lanza lost all control over her son and ignored the fact that his condition was getting worse over time. Assuming his medical diagnoses were accurate, the fact that Adam Lanza refused to participate in any sort of cognitive behavioral therapy that could have lessened the impact of the Asperger’s Syndrome and his co-morbid conditions he was diagnosed with. (Note: Asperger’s Syndrome is often co-morbid with one or more mental health conditions. Some Asperger’s cases do very well on their own with the right training, knowledge, skills, and attitude, some not so much.)

The reports indicate that Nancy Lanza tried to use the shared mutual interest in firearms as a way to bond with her son, Adam Lanza and had made assumptions that Adam Lanza could be trusted with unsupervised access to a firearm.

The need for immediate access to the firearm in the event of an emergency is something that should be balanced with how much you trust the people living with you under the same roof. Generally the firearm used for immediate defensive use should be a quick access safe or on your person. Nowhere else.

The gun that was used to kill Nancy Lanza.

The gun that was used to kill Nancy Lanza.

If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…”

Reports indicate that Nancy Lanza had e-mailed a friend of hers saying that she was concerned with a photograph of a dead body that she had found in the house that belonged to Adam Lanza. Much like how a security clearance can be revoked when a cleared party does something that indicates they can no longer be trusted, Adam Lanza’s access to any firearms in the house should have been “revoked”. Fingerprint based gun safes were designed for this very reason.

Whose Fault Was it?

Responsibility for the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre ultimately lies with Adam Lanza, but Nancy Lanza’s inaction unwittingly enabled Adam Lanza to carry out his crimes, including her own murder.


  • If someone is living with you, honestly ask yourself if you would trust them with unsupervised access to and unsupervised control over any of the following:
    • An open flame
    • Matches
    • Gasoline
    • A buzzsaw or bandsaw
    • A sharp knife
  • If your answer is “NO” or “maybe” on any of the above, then the person in question should not have unsupervised access to your firearms.
  • Maintain as much real-time intelligence as possible on what your kid is doing.
    • There is no shortage of software or hardware for monitoring computer usage.
  • Consider matters of civil liability as well.
    • Even if a judge/jury were to find that Nancy Lanza’s estate is not liable for the actions of Adam Lanza, it still would not stop any of the victim’s families from filing suit against her estate and against Adam Lanza’s father.
      • Such suits often end in a civil settlement to avoid the cost of fighting the suit and the risk of losing in court.
      • The families of the Columbine murderers settled with the victims’ families.
        • See http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=93525
        • Columbine Families Settle Suits With Parents

          Victims’ Families Settle Negligence Claims Against Gunmen’s Parents

          April 19


          Most of the families of the victims in the Columbine massacre two years ago today settled their lawsuits against the parents of the gunmen.

          Thirty of the 36 families whose relatives were either killed or injured by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris in the April 20, 1999, school shooting agreed to participate in a settlement for a total of $1.56 million, according to Stephen Wahlberg, who led the families’ attorneys in the case. A judge will determine how the money is distributed.

          Six of the families whose children were killed in the shootings opted not to settle. They are still pursuing suits against the Klebolds and Harrises, lawyers said.

          Wahlberg said all 36 suits against Mark Manes and Phi Duran, who helped provide Klebold and Harris with guns while they were still minors, have been settled for $720,000 and $250,000, respectively.

          Attorneys hope to reach a settlement with Robyn Anderson, a teenager who dated Klebold and bought weapons for him, for between $200,000 and $300,000.

          Harris and Klebold killed 12 students and one teacher before committing suicide during the rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. About two dozen others were injured in the attack.

          Lawsuits Against School and Sheriffs Continue

          In the negligence lawsuits, the families claimed the parents of the shooters knew, or at least should have known, about the possibility that their sons would carry out the attack. Investigators found bomb-making materials and weapons in the bedrooms of the gunmen and uncovered a diary that revealed they had planned the rampage for at least a year. Investigators also found that Harris had maintained a hate Web site up until his death.

          Today’s settlements will not affect the lawsuits filed against the school and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.

          Those lawsuits contend that officials at the high school and the sheriff’s department knew that Klebold and Harris were troubled and had made previous threats against students, yet chose to ignore the complaints.

          School officials and the sheriff’s department, the lawsuits claim, could have prevented the attack. The victims’ families have also accused the sheriff’s department of covering up information suggesting officials mishandled the Columbine shooting from the beginning.

          ABCNEWS’ Law and Justice Unit contributed to this report.

    • As cynical as it may sound, whenever there is a tragedy, deepest pockets will always get hit by a lawyer or two.
  • Ignoring a problem does not make it go away, it just makes it worse.
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Posted in Awareness, Child Safety, Gun Safety
10 comments on “Lessons from Sandy Hook: Parental Responsibility
  1. Oops. Meant excellent!


  2. Great advice, that woman let her son get away with everything.I can tell you that growing up I didn’t have a TV in my room, video games were played in the family room. A parent is suppose to raise the kid, not let the kid raise you. The shocking thing is that Lanza’s mother was a teacher, if you can control a classroom, why couldn’t you control your own child?


  3. Hardnox says:

    Excellent piece. Reposted this at ‘Nox & Friends: http://hardnoxandfriends.com/2013/12/14/lessons-from-sandy-hook-parental-responsibility/

    The mental health reporting issues still need to be addressed.


  4. David says:

    Just a small complaint “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” is not amongst the best (or even mediocre) parts of the bible…There are no shortage of murderes who has been beaten by parents to “dicipline” them either, one is a failture as a parent if one has to use beatings to “dicipline” them…And if the child is mentally ill even without recieving beatings, it CERTAINLY will not help anyone if they recieve those…
    Lanzas mother seems to be missing a few marbles herself also, I dont think her beating her son would have helped!


    • GSP says:

      You took my usage of the bible passage a bit too literally! 🙂

      I brought it up as a metaphor for the value of boundaries and parents keeping tabs on their kids.


      • David says:

        OK, sorry!..(i agree with that, its just that some people realy mean it in the litteraly way)


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