Adam Lanza’s Mother Taught Her Son How to Shoot…Then He Killed Her First

nancy-lanzaby Dr. Boyce Watkins

Adam Lanza was the kind of disturbed loner that you don’t want in control of any kind of weapon.   He was also a tech geek, which means that he grew up with a healthy dose of incredibly violent and realistic video games, like Grand Theft Auto, which allow you to carry a machine gun and kill everyone in the street for no good reason at all.   This week, the nation was shocked to see Lanza go into Sandy Hook Elementary School and murder 20 children and six adults in cold blood.  I wasn’t surprised at all.

Lanza shot his victims with precision, ruthlessness and efficiency.  This type of skill comes from knowing how to point, aim and reload when necessary.  It also comes from knowing how to hit the body point blank, multiple times, to ensure that the victim is dead.  I’m a 41-year old man, and I still don’t know how to do that.

Adam gained much of his killing ability from his mother, Nancy.   Nancy took Adam to the gun range when he was a child and showed him how to hit his target.  She continued to take him to target practice as he approached adulthood.  Nancy collected guns, all of them legally purchased, and kept them because they made her feel safe.  She probably died having no idea that her little chicken would come home to roost in such a brutal and violent way.

After surprising his mother with her own homicide, Adam then got into her car, took her guns and went to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he committed one of the most heinous crimes in modern American history.   As his mother taught him over many years, Adam rarely missed his target.

My daughter ran across another version of Adam Lanza in “the hood.”  He was about the same age as Lanza, with the same degree of ruthlessness.  His aim was not as good, since he’d never been taught how to fire. Also, his mother didn’t give him the gun he used to shoot a three-year old boy in the head, he probably got it on the black market.   Unfortunately for this young man and the little boy who now lives in heaven, they both grew up in a neighborhood where it’s easier for a black man to get a gun than it is for him to get an education.  Guns don’t kill people – irresponsible and neglectful social policies kill people.

When I created the “Building Outstanding Men and Boys” family empowerment series, I thought about the many potential Adam Lanzas that exist in communities all throughout our country.  I thought about how our children are merely products of what we feed them from the time they are born.   Like machines off an assembly line, they  enter the world with the psychological and spiritual programming they are given both inside the home and in our society.  We as a country CHOOSE to create young men who are willing to do horrible things to the rest of us, and the way we raise our children has a ripple effect on everyone they interact with throughout their lives.  Additionally, our children are shaped by the policies we implement to determine the environment within which our kids are going to exist.

Shortly after the tragedies that occurred on September 11, 2001, Congress moved to quickly implement the Patriot Act:  A set of sweeping laws that dramatically changed the way the FBI, CIA and other federal agencies do business.  They were granted virtually unlimited resources to make our nation safer in response to a horrific set of events.  The president didn’t simply sit back and contemplate how this tragedy (like the last one and the one before that) suddenly “puts it all into perspective.”   Congress gave him the support he needed to respond and act immediately in response to the factors that threaten our nation, and he also made the decision to demand that support.

When it comes to gun violence, the time to act is NOW.  We must respond on both aggregate and the individual levels.  Nationally, we should consider the advice of Father Michael Pfleger (who has seen the results of gun violence in his own back yard) and react to these tragedies with decisive action that will make our children safe.  In the  words of Pfleger:

“Now is the time to Demand a REAL conversation about Guns! About Banning Assault Weapons, Closing the loopholes on purchasing guns (private sale, lost or stolen, mental illness) And TITLING GUNS LIKE Cars. We cannot simply talk about the tragedy in Connecticut or the streets of Chicago and refuse to take steps to STOP it from repeating itself again. If we don’t our sympathy is shallow…….” 

Individually, we must realize that our children are going to become products of whatever we choose to feed them.  The Adam Lanzas of the world are Made in America, and if we feed them nothing but hate, they will grow up to hate other people.  If we teach them violence, they will grow up to ultimately learn to kill.  While the white Adam Lanza learned how to kill from his mother, the black Adam Lanzas are often taught to kill by reciting the chorus of violent hip-hop lyrics that tell them that “If a n*gga makes you mad, then shoot that m*therfucker in the face.”  It is hard to disconnect this programming from the fact that African American males are the leading victims of handgun violence in the United States:  Hip-hop is not the sole cause of all of these problems, but the subliminal impact of consistently repeating violent nursery-rhyme mantras over a smooth and compelling beat can certainly bring out the very worst in us.  Our psychological makeup plays a critical role in how we respond to pressure.

It’s time to stop tap dancing around our collective reality.  We must seek and destroy the careers of politicians who are being bought and paid for by the National Rifle Association and other gun lobbies who value profit over people.  It’s time to start confronting record labels who give lucrative contracts to artists who encourage black men to murder one another.  It’s time to elevate the compassion of the young Adam Lanzas of the world, so they can grow up protecting children instead of terrorizing them.

Make no mistake about it, this is going to happen again soon.  Right now, there’s some child, somewhere, being fed hate, anger and violence on a regular basis.  His mind is being poisoned, like a rotting piece of meat, injected with the virus of self-destruction and disdain for his fellow man.   Once he is adequately infected, his anger will lash out onto the world, devastating the rest of us with relentless shockwaves of unadulterated evil.  It’ll be too late to teach him compassion, because those neural circuits were adequately altered by extreme poverty, a horrible educational system, police brutality, child abandonment and the latest release from Interscope Records.  His desire to kill the rest of us will be fueled by the fact that his soul has already been aborted.

If we want to stop creating the Adam Lanzas of the world, we must reclaim the village and raise these children as our own.  There’s no way to escape our own personal and collective responsibility. We must also get around the nonsense of the gun control debate and do what is right for the American people.  Period.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, “Commercialized Hip-Hop:  The Gospel of Self-Destruction.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.




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  1. Do you want me to believe that this woman taught her son how to shoot for only one,one, one,thing- animals? Did she teach him to have such a sophisticated arsenal also for firing just just just at animals? Ok. What else do you want me to believe? Oh, and is this ONLY stemming from the mother wanting her son to be the best of Boy Scout? Ok. And lastly, do you want me to believe she is full of such love and teaches this love to him that he will never ever hurt anyone? Ok. Anything else?

  2. Wonder if the stupidass woman seen it coming

    • Rosanna Bivens Weaver

      Good question.

    • @ Anita Bivens Morrison on the news it was stated that he had not had any interaction with his father and brother since 2010 and the parents divorced in 2009. He could have had any number of mental health issues, abandonment to possibly mom being paranoid and worried about their safety. Divorce often does extreme things to people if it isn't handled right.

  3. The mother knew her son had a problem; she had a problem too. We don't know the whole story and never will. All of the stories reported were not correct from the beginning of this news from this rural town; not a suburb as some state. You would have to know the mother's up-bringing and the blood-line is passed down to children. I heard the father is a lawyer and the older brother works in stocks; they had not saw him in two years; I am sure they know what was happening with mother and son; they said the mother was a teacher and later a teacher's aide; she was home schooling him at home; where did she get her income from; a teacher's aide does not make a lot of money. You have to know how a person feels when they shoot a gun to understand why some people love doing this and are overwhelmed with guns. We have to address problems with children early; not keep it hush-hush. This rural town was too good for something like this to happen.

  4. Children certainly are the products of their environment- not just the home environment. They are privy to society’s degradation, peer presure, hostile political climate, the evils and violence of pornography, and so much more. No mother has the capacity to completely shape her child’s mind. He are she will start to assimilate information from many sources from television to what they learn from other school children and teachers. To place the blame on the mother allows the perpetrator to go unscathed for his heinous acts. Like all adults, he too, was responsible for behaving appropriately toward others. Whatever vileness he picked up along the way, he had an obligation to live and let live. It is clear he had some kind of psychopathy, but even that is not free license to murder. Apparently the mother was not a psychopath. She may have taught her son to be a good shooter. I grew up in the country and my 3 uncles did the same for me and my two younger brothers,but none of us have ever opened fire in a public place. At age 11, I could outshoot many men in our community. Ps. I’m a female.

  5. Someone criticized me recently for writing this article, saying that "Now is not the time for criticism. It is the time for compassion." I said that "The best way to show compassion for those poor children is to criticize the a**hole politicians who got them killed in the first place."

  6. Gun lobbying and gun control is never going to solve this issue. America is a violent society. Always has been. You want to solve this problem, we have to deal with mental illness, violent media devices, how we condition our children, our language, etc. We have to deal with this problem holistically and deal with it from the root. And stop blaming it on inanimate objects. 1 in 2 people in Switzerland has an assault weapon. And if you have ever been to Switzerland (I've been to Geneva and Lucerne) you would see not only is it one of the most cleanest countries in the world but it is also one of the most peaceful.

    • Nwenna Kai: You are correct, the problems are not the guns, but the people who owns the guns. Every man from age 18-50 have to be prepared to support the military in Switzerland. I too have been there and saw the system in action. Crime rate in this country is very low.
      Switzerland is capable of organizing a million man army in 24 hours and this is one of the reasons its so peaceful. No one want to attach them.
      Back to America. This country have a long way to travel to meets the proper sanity level to responsibly own guns. This country was founded, expanded, grew wealth and prosper with the use of the gun. There is an old saying live by the sword and you die by the sword. What more can we say?

  7. All too true……the other thing I would add, is what thinking Mother would not only allow an autistic child access to guns, but but also personally train him in their use? I find it strange that a Mother in her fifties would be so facinated with guns. I would have serious questions as to the Mothers mental health. And finally for rural Whites who stand on the second amendment, Adam Lanza was not deer hunting nor was he protecting his life or property…..

  8. Galatians 6:7 reads-Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. To break it down, whether it be a middle class white woman teaching her son how to shoot, or commercialized hip hop teaching black inner city kids to shoot and kill, the results are the same; we reap what we sow. Nancy Lanza taught her son at an early age how to shoot a gun on a rifle range before the youngster fully absorbed reading a book and thus sowed the seeds of her own and many of her students destruction. Similarly this gangta rap is teaching kids to kill, also before they can be. THIS IS SATANIC! We must not only confront the NRA and their political lackeys but more importantly we MUST change the culture in this country and change the hearts of men and women. Our spirits and tarnished and our souls damaged and we must break the chains of corruption at all levels.

  9. What hive up Huns are you crazy, remember what happens when only White People had guns we were victimized by them, the Government would love to disarm you dummy, I really feel for the Children, Really but disarming is not the solution. And Black People killing Black People won't stop, the Dummies who do that will just get them illegally, teach Black kids to love themselves and they will love others, disarm never, unless you want to ho back to slavery, how many Black People died then?

  10. Lori Wilson-Reynolds

    Blaming the mother is a cop out. A lot of kids come from homes filled with hate and do not grow up to be mass murderers. It is poor judgement on the mother's part to take and teach her son to shoot. She may not have known her son was mentally ill, many mental illnesses go undiagnosed.

    • WHAT! She knew alright. A mother knows her child,and she knew he had mental issues. I don't think she knew she had mental illness. Clearly if she did she wouldn't have given that young man a gun. Unfortunately,she paid the price for her mistake,and twenty others that had nothing to do with her ill teachings. It's just a shame

  11. B***shit! People kill People.Sometimes with GUNS!

  12. they love their guns this will happen again. the mother was crazy her son was insane.

  13. Interesting Article on Adam Lanza, and his mother, Nancy!

  14. The gun lobby had better be careful, since their enemies are allowed to buy assault weapons too….a lot of people are very angry and hurt. The backlash could be tremendous.

    • I'm sure she didn't think she'd die at the hands of her own son…her own weapons. Human nature suggests that we want to understand as much as we can..but when things of this nature take place…there is no justification, nothing to be said..nothing at all.

    • Unfortunately you will always confuse the right to bear arms with violence. How about we start putting the blame where it belongs on the person and how we raise our kids. In the past 2 generations I believe we have transformed from caring people to selfish people. We no longer expect people to take responsibility for their actions. Instead we look for reasons not to hold a person accountable for their actions. I believe no gun law would have protected these people in fact I believe he would have used another tool if he had not had a gun like a pipe bomb, car or knife. Had any of these items been used would we have been discussing banning fertilizer, knives or cars? Nope! So I ask you to use a little common sense to fix these issues like putting God in our lives and teaching our kids to take responsibility for their actions and teaching them that no matter what the issue it is taking a life in anger is not acceptable.

    • The Gun Lobby is in hiding,I do not thing anybody has the guts…

    • I cannot see anybody having the guts.. the gun lobby is hiding behind the curtains.I believe their saying "time will past,people will forget.". "In the mean time we can sell to the United States War department".

  15. The most neglected fact in our society is that these people originate from somewhere. Parents are the first to know that their kids are crazy, violent, dealing drugs or just plain losing contact with reality. One father identified his son on news footage robbing a store. He promptly called the police and had him arrested. Kids are building bombs in the garages of parents, stashing guns and drugs in the home and hanging out with the dregs of society. What you do as a parent will often yield fruit that will florish or flounder in the proving grounds of society. "The lion slays the lamb in the dark of night, but the tell-tale blood stains will remain to tell on him by day."

  16. Cynthia Highlyfavord Bush

    A must read…

  17. Cynthia Highlyfavord Bush

    First of all i must oppose to what u all are saying not all children live what they are taught..Comimg from a mother of three,your children could b raised witt a drill sargent,the min they hit your door..they become they own people.Its so much out there to influence yo kid,whether u taught them r not to follow.It dosent matter..If they want to try it america…"THEY WILL" I DONT CARE WHAT U INSTILL IN THEM..THATS MINE,YOURS,ANYBODY"S..PUT PRAYER BACK IN SCHOOLS…PEOPLE….U TOOK PRAYER OUT@LET SATAN @GUNS IN…TAKE A LOOK…ITS ALL IN URE CHURCH HOUSES,WHERE EVER U WHORSHIP AT..THERES NO BELIEF..SO WHY SHALL THE PASTOR BELIEVE N YO WHORSHIP PLACE..THIS WHY YOUR KIDS R BEING MOLESTED BY YO PASTORS,@FATHERS..NO BELIEFS..IJS..DONT CARE IF U DONT LIKE IT..ITS THE TRUTH..

    • Be consistent you say that children are going to do what they want then you throw in pray in school? Is that going to have more affect on the children that the parent?

  18. Can we stop talking about this murderer and start hinking about those precious lives who were lost and their families.

  19. I'm opposed to any more legislation that blocks our access to own firearms. Tragedies like the insane, never-reported-nationally Chicago violence and mass murders like the one in Connecticut that steal the nation's attention hurt, but we have to look at the decay of the American family as the root cause of violence. We are a violent and murderous nation, and that will happen with or without guns.

  20. There does need to be a change to gun laws, why does anyone posting on this site need to have an assualt weapon? Or clips with multiple bullets? With that said however, lets look at something else in this story. The shooters mom, what role does she and his family play in this? I'm sorry but this family must take a lot of responsibility for the mass murders just committed. If we are to believe what we are now finding out, this young man had some sort of mental issue. If this is true then it was irresponsible for him to have access to guns. What was the point of taking a young man with alledged mental issues, and taking this person out shooting? Was this suppose to help him better open up, since he is being described as shy. Was giving him access to guns suppose to be some type of therapy? Sorry but this was totally irresponsible. And when you have a situation like this there are no gun laws to protect us from something as stupid as this!

  21. Your article was spot-on. But what I DID find even more interesting was the advertisement for a DVOR knife. Looking closely at the knife, it has a swivel which makes the blade POP out aka a switchblade knife. Knives kill, too, and were the weapons of chose for street gangs before guns became so prolific. Dr. Watkins, I have truly enjoyed reading your blog and learned much from you; but please be consistent. Even if the advertisement was for a cooking knife, the subliminal message is still there–these are tools for cutting of flesh–whether man's or animal's. At first I thought it was going to be built into your message; then I thought "What a sick irony!"

  22. "I'm scared to death of White teens". – Chris Rock.

  23. The news called this kid a personalituy disorder which IS NOT code for crazy. Personality disorders are environmentally created not born. When I read that the mother was rigid I said there's the gin for that gin and juice cocktail. Then she puts a gun in her troubled son's hands which he uses on her. We need to stop calling these people gun enthusiasts and call them what they really are PARANOID. The mother was rigid and paraqnoid and she created a mindless and deadly narcissist. Paranoia can teased out in a psychological exam. Assault weapons are designed for one purpose only to kill a lot of people really fast. Why allow them to proliferate in our streets?

  24. I don't believe for one minute that changing gun laws are going to make one bit of difference. The damage is done. Its in the psyche of the people who have or will commit these kinds of acts. I think the gun debate is almost worthless. I think the prevention conversation (as in Boyce's assertion that what we "feed" our kids has a lot to do with this) is the one we really should be having and implementing.

    • you are right, it won't. It's funny how everyone's been bringing up the law, politics and religion on this subject. Changes made to that before or after the fact wouldn't have changed what happened that day. The sole responsibility lies on that individual. not his mother, not anyone.

    • Timothy Mc Vie didn't use a gun! Yes we can cut down on the numbers killed at one time by one person, that's if that person doesn't want to kill large numbers of people or does it without thought. We are more in need of a thought readjustment than just gun control. But are we ever really going to address or real issues?

    • Randy you are on the money like in GOD we trust, their is something that we can do, if people don't know have them call me 312-371-6914 or go to

    • I agree with Karen, children do live what they learn. Had his mother brought him up like the bible says, "train up a child in the way they should go and they will not depart" and that's fearing God. I know a lot of senseless crimes are commited by people and we can't blame family members; however, reading what this mom did is just senseless.

  25. are black males rather. And, the president is too afraid to touch the issue. He is afraid of inciting those who hate him and who forever claim that he wants to take their guns. Or, maybe he doesn't really care either. His family is WELL protected.

  26. Genrally, no one really cares until it directly affects them. There will be no action taken to limit the number of guns on our streets. Most republicans law makers love the fact the overwhelming majority of people killed by guns for black males

  27. Thank you for this magnificent message, Dr. Boyce.

  28. Funny how people keeps guns in their homes thinking it's going to protect them but the guns they keep became deadly to them….. I hope she did not get to look him in the eyes right before he shot her…… I really hope that was not the last thing she saw…. God bless all involved in this horrific crime…..

  29. Write on! and on! and on! Thank you for your pearls of wisdom regarding raising children.

  30. I was reading an article last night that says, "It was not out of the ordinary to hear a gun shot in Newtown." It also stated that mostly everyone there owned GUNS.

  31. Tamesha Lee Walters