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I'm a Sociology Professor at the University of Toronto. I write about gun violence, health disparities, and Hip Hop culture. When I'm not doing research, I like pop-locking, swimming, and learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This is my first blog. I hope you like it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Where's Nancy Lanza?

Like many of you, I have been glued to news coverage of the Newtown shooting. While watching the memorial last night and reading news today, I was struck by a curious omission: Nancy Lanza’s murder does not “count”.

Nancy Lanza's death does not "count" in the public eye.
When the President, journalists, and others talk about the tragedy in Newtown, they talk about 26 victims.  Last night on CNN, Anderson Cooper had a special segment dedicated to remembering the “26 lives lost” in Newtown, CT.  The President made several references to the 26 victims in his moving speech to a small auditorium in Newtown.  An LA Times article reports that firefighters have erected 26 Christmas trees honoring the fallen in Newtown.  

Nancy Lanza is the 27th victim.  Why is her story omitted from memorials? Why is her death and story not worth mentioning when we memorialize the victims of this tragedy? 

Is it because she’s the mother of the assailant?  Is it because she bought her son the guns that were eventually used in the spree shooting?  Is it because some of us secretly believe that she was “responsible” for her son’s heinous crime?

Nancy Lanza was tragically shot in the head four times.  News are reporting today that she was worried about her son and was a great mother.  Some of her friends have balked at the idea that she was a “survivalist,” and claim that this is the news media spinning her into a caricature that helps us make sense of this tragedy.   

I won’t pretend to know the inner-workings of her life, or her relationship to her son, but I find it strange and troubling that her death doesn’t seem to count.    


  1. I would agree with you. Where was Nancy Lanza in all of the reporting of the deaths of the children and adults at the Newtown School? Until I googled her and looked for an image I had never seen a photo in the reports of the victims. Wasn't she a victim too?

  2. I'll give you the answer. We all know she was shot four times and YES her death was a tragedy. It WAS NOT an INNOCENT tragedy like the others. AT MINIMUM, she's to blame for leaving the guns unattended. That in and of itself is enough for people to cast judgement or blame. So forget the stories of their relationship and whether or not she was about to have him put away. FORGET ALL OF THAT. Just based on the pure negligence of having attainable guns in the home to a person with ANY kind of mental issue, sickness, or disability eliminates her from the same category as the others. You know how we sometimes say just use the eye test? That's what this is. Every time you see her face with the others you automatically get an awkward feeling about it.

  3. I think the general public would like to believe that we have more free will or choice in our lives. Though it's not always the case, we'd like to believe that good parenting = good kid, so by default, bad parenting = bad kid. We can control our lives. Obviously, relationships and the identity of a person (ones choices and character) is much more multifaceted, and it's not right to blame someone else for another person's choice. I think, by her relationship with her son, the public attributes some portion of blame on the mother (no matter how indirect her choices were in the outcome of the tragedy). It's not logically right, but emotionally, people want to make sense of the situation and find anything to blame. Feeling helpless in such a tragic event, people want to give or try something to feel better about the situation better through spotlighting, giving recognition(identity), and giving tribute towards the victims' deaths. By giving sympathy out to someone with some perceived amount of blame, they may feel as if they're taking that recognition(identity) or tribute away the victims. I'm not saying that this is right by any means, but by putting them in the same group, you tarnish that spotlight.

    She lost her son and her life. Nobody deserves that. She and the other family members are also victims. It's fucking tragic and so profoundly sad on every level.