Anguished search for an explanation

anguishedSlowly, amid rumor and misinformation, a picture of the killer is emerging, and it is dismayingly familiar. Adam Lanza was yet another young, withdrawn, middle-class male who for some unimaginable reason graduated from his adolescence as a mass murderer.

What happened Friday in Newtown, Conn., was a variant on what the country has witnessed repeatedly in recent years. Once again, it was a pseudo-commando attack, as if the killer were playing a video game and racking up points for every victim. Once again, the crime appeared to be staged for maximum shock value. And once again — just as in Aurora, Colo., this past summer — there was the element of overkill, with multiple weapons, a military-style rifle and massive amounts of ammunition.

Lanza, 20, shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, at home, and then invaded Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he killed 20 first-graders and six adults, firing 30-round clips from a .223 Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle before taking his own life. How many bullets? “Hundreds,” Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said Sunday.

Detectives recovered evidence at the Lanza home that might help explain the killer’s thinking, but authorities have not revealed what they found. For the moment, the Newtown massacre remains as inexplicable as it is horrifying. “We don’t have a specific reason,” Vance said.

The location and lethality of the Newtown tragedy, and the preciousness of the victims, have turned the holiday season into a period of national soul-searching and calls for action to curb gun violence. Newtown dominated the Sunday talk shows. President Obama flew to Connecticut to join the mourning, and people nationwide revisited with new urgency the complex issues of gun laws, mental illness and access to mental health care.

The Newtown discussion necessarily sweeps in the news media, which give the killers a notoriety they couldn’t have achieved legitimately. The discussion touches on Hollywood, which markets spectacular make-believe violence. Also implicated: The computer gaming industry, which profits from ultra-realistic shooting games that are bloodier than ever.

“I point the finger unreservedly at the entertainment industry, which has spawned and cultivated gaming that by design is increasingly real, geared to action as…


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