Nearly five years after the horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the FBI has released more than 1,500 pages of documents related to the investigation.
Among the revelations in the documents, the most astounding was the fact that the Newtown police were told that Adam Lanza, the gunman, wanted to carry out that specific crime — and they did nothing.
A resident of the town said she overheard Lanza say he “planned to kill his mother and children at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut.” She also said that he “had an assault weapon and that she was scared of him.”
When she told the local police, they told her that, since his mother owned the guns legally, there was nothing they could do about it. They suggested she call the state police.
There were additional details in the report which, in retrospect, could have raised red flags, particularly after it was known that Lanza said he wanted to kill his mother and children at the school.
An unnamed source told an FBI agent that Lanza’s mother, Nancy Lanza, had become concerned about him a month before the shooting because he had become a “shut in” who hadn’t gone anywhere in three months. She also said that he refused to take medication prescribed to him for Asperger’s Syndrome, a diagnosis he also rejected.
What are we to make of this? Should we do the modern American thing of rushing to “do something” about the latest information?
I think not. The “do something” epidemic in America frequently leads to foolish decisions and later regret. I recommend a more reasoned approach, taking in the fullest picture that we know.
We know now that the police had extraordinarily specific details, but chose not to act on them. We also know that several people, including his mother, were worried about Lanza.
The usual reaction has been to call for more government. More spying. More reporting.
The problem with that is the typical problem that comes with bigger and bigger government: Government doesn’t care about you, or your children, or Adam Lanza’s mom — or Adam Lanza, for that matter. Government, by nature, has policies and procedures it must follow. And then, when those fail, we need more policies and procedures, since we obviously didn’t have enough before.
There is a role for government, to be sure. But for a long time in America, we’ve cast off our neighborly duties, because “someone else” will — or “should” — take care of it (that “someone else” is generally government).
However, that’s never been the way America was supposed to work. We were expected to govern ourselves, since we had such limited governments. We were also connected to one another. And this is where the true problem lies.
Neighbors knew each other and often took part in each other’s lives. Families were deeply involved with one another, and that was the norm. A friend meant more than a name and a profile picture on Facebook.
If this had been the case in Adam Lanza’s life, could the massacre at Sandy Hook have been prevented? It’s not possible to know that. It would’ve been at least somewhat more likely, though.
The town resident did the right thing by reporting to the police what Lanza said. But the police, perhaps overworked, or perhaps too deeply in the rules and regulations mindset, dropped the ball.
We are a severely fragmented — and selfish — society, and we all want to live our lives and not be inconvenienced by other peoples’ problems. “Someone else” can deal with it, after all. Surely by now we can tell that hasn’t worked out.
We don’t need to forfeit our entire lives to be at the beck and call of anyone and everyone. But perhaps we can pare down our TV watching and a few of our kids’ many lessons they go to each week in order to make room for others.
People are hurting and lonely and are dealing with real difficulties. Maybe that person is you. Every one of us could use another person in our lives who actually cares about us. How many of society’s problems would vanish if we simply followed Jesus’ directive to “love one another”?
More than would vanish with another government agency.