I assume that the same will hold true of Adam Lanza.
If such minds are unknowable, it follows that they’re also unpredictable. If you look into the backgrounds of mass murderers, you’ll find very few who gave signs that they were capable of a heinous crime. Many of them were “grievance killers” — the laid-off employee who is to all appearances normal, up to the moment he barges into the office with guns blazing.
Purdy was the psychopathic type, but he did not have a history of violence. He had never been charged with a felony, never been committed to a mental institution. Sure, he was depicted as a weird loner, but that description would fit a million people, virtually none of whom commit massacres. No one who knew him suspected that he had it in him to spray a crowded school ground with bullets. No one could say what triggered his rampage.
Since the Newtown, Conn., massacre, there has been a good deal of vague chatter suggesting that people like Purdy or Lanza or Jared Loughner can be identified before they act on their monstrous fantasies and can be prohibited from purchasing firearms. A kind of early-warning radar will detect a disturbed personality on a trajectory toward slaughter.
How would this be accomplished? Are disgruntled workers, loners or anyone who says or does bizarre things going to be examined by psychiatric boards? If it’s determined that they are potential dangers to themselves or others, would they be placed on some sort of national watch list? Compelled to undergo treatment? Locked up?
Even if such a system had been in place, it would not have stopped Lanza, who, as we all know, obtained his weapons by stealing them from the collection of his gun-enthusiast mother.
Libertarians and gun-rights lobbyists say that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. That is, they assert that the problem isn’t the proliferation of ever more lethal weapons, the elimination or gutting of gun-control laws, the passage of concealed-carry regulations that exceed the ridiculous (in eight states, it is permissible to pack heat in a bar, something that was illegal even in Wild West towns like Dodge City). No, these advocates say, the problem is that the guns end up in the wrong hands.