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The Shooters and Their Moms

Laurel Harper and Nancy Lanza both had sons that chose to murder people and then kill themselves. All mass shooters have mothers, and fathers, and blame or judgement being cast on them isn’t exactly uncommon. These two, though, are being held up as uniquely culpable for their sons’ crimes.

Both were divorced, and lived with their kids as single parents without a whole lot of involvement or contact with the bio dads, who had new marriages and new families. Both shooters had mental problems, and the arsenals they carried came from their mothers. Guns were a shared interest between them, and mother-son trips to the shooting range were a bonding activity.

The parallels aren’t exactly infinite, though. Christopher Harper-Mercer was six years older than Adam Lanza and better able to function in society, though Lanza set the bar pretty low in that regard. Harper-Mercer apparently left a manifesto and wanted the world to know his thoughts, and who knows what the fuck Lanza wanted or what he thought about anything. People are already slotting the Oregon shooter into the male entitlement/toxic masculinity narrative, while the Sandy Hook shooter remains a complete cipher. Harper-Mercer also chose to spare his mother, or maybe he never considered targeting her in the first place, while Nancy Lanza was her son’s first victim.


The blame here seems to hinge on both women knowing that their sons weren’t right in the head, yet still encouraging an obsession with guns and maintaining a home arsenal for the moment they finally went off the deep end. If their own gun obsession was strange and unfeminine, more stereotypical was how they praised, coddled, and protected their sons, who their lives seemed to revolve around. In that case, the blame seems to be that they failed to recognize they were sick and dangerous, and that they failed to get them proper treatment. One counterpoint is Bobby Jindal flipping the script and putting it all on Harper-Mercer’s dad for not being involved enough, but I think all the vitriol comes from him having the temerity to come out to the press talking about gun control.

Any thoughts on the similarities between the two women? Would you consider them meaningful or superficial? What about the coverage so far and the public response?

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