Adam Peter Lanza (April 22, 1992 – December 14, 2012) and his mother lived in Sandy Hook, 5 miles (8 km) from the elementary school. He did not have a criminal record. He attended Sandy Hook Elementary School for a brief time. Afterward, he attended St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in Newtown, and thenNewtown High School, where he was an honors student. Lanza subsequently was home-schooled by his mother, and earned a GED. Lanza’s aunt said his mother removed him from the Newtown public school system because she was unhappy with the school district’s plans for her son. He attended Western Connecticut State University in 2008 and 2009.
Students and teachers who knew him in high school described Lanza as “intelligent, but nervous and fidgety”. He avoided attracting attention and was uncomfortable socializing. He is not known to have had any close friends in school.
Lanza’s brother told law enforcement that Adam was believed to have a personality disorder and was “somewhat autistic”. An anonymous law enforcement official and friends of Nancy Lanza reported that Adam had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. According to the Hartford Courant and Frontline, Lanza was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder when he was about 6. This disorder does not have official status by the medical community as a formal diagnosis but is frequently one of the characteristics of autism.
Following her divorce from Adam’s father, a corporate executive, Nancy Lanza was supported by alimonypayments. A relative commented that she did not have to work because the divorce settlement had left her “very well off”. There were initially conflicting reports on whether Nancy Lanza had worked as a volunteer at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Her sister-in-law described Nancy Lanza as a “gun enthusiast who owned at least a dozen firearms”. She often took her two sons to a local shooting range and had them learn to shoot.
Due to concerns that published accounts of Lanza’s autism could result in a backlash against others with the condition, autism advocates campaigned to clarify that autism is a brain-related developmental problem and not a mental illness. The predatory aggression demonstrated by Lanza in this rampage is generally not seen in the autistic population.
On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot twenty children and six adult staff members in a mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the village of Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut. Before driving to the school, Lanza shot and killed his mother Nancy at their Newtown home. As first responders arrived, he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
It was the second deadliest mass shooting by a single person in American history, after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, and the second deadliest mass murder at a U.S. elementary school, after the 1927 Bath School bombings in Michigan.
The shootings prompted renewed debate about gun control in the United States, and a proposal for new legislation banning the sale and manufacture of certain types of semi-automatic firearms and magazines with more than ten rounds of ammunition.