Published on February 23rd, 2013 | by -swansong-6
PBS Frontline: Raising Adam Lanza (Transcript)
On Tuesday, February 19th PBS broadcast an episode of it’s program, Frontline, titled Raising Adam Lanza. This program was a joint effort between the Hartford Courant and Frontline. We, at Insanemedia, are happy to provide a transcript of “Raising Adam Lanza” for research and discussion purposes.
In the wake of the mass killings at Sandy Hook, FRONTLINE looks for answers to the elusive question: who was Adam Lanza?
Raising Adam Lanza
AJ (Andrew Julien – Hartford Courant Editor) – It’s been a week since the shooting. For most of the journalists in this newsroom they’ve never covered anything that came close to being as horrific as this. It is the singular event in the histroy of Connecticut.
VO (Voice Over) – A week after Adam Lanza massacred 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, church bells tolled across the state. Memorials were erected to the 26 victims. President Obama read out 26 names. But there was a 27th person murdered that day, the gunman’s mother Nancy Lanza.
AJ – Nancy Lanza is the person Adam was closest to in the world. She was the first person he killed. He shot her 4 times in the head while she was in bed and then he went off to Sandy Hook Elementary School. If we can begin to understand Adam’s relationship with Nancy we probably can begin to understand Adam.
AG (Alaine Griffin – Hartford Courant Reporter) – One of the things that Josh and I talked about early on when we were given this assignment is the fact that it didn’t seem like Nancy was ever really mentioned as a victim in this case.
We had heard a lot of different things about her from other news outlets, we weren’t even sure if they were true. We come to find out later that some of them weren’t.
JK (Josh Kovner – Hartford Courant Reporter) – We knew there was some diagnosis, some deficit, some social deficiency and how that complicated their relationship and what it took to bring this kid along and to some degree what happened. Those were our marching orders.
AG – There are going to be many obstacles in reporting this story. The cops aren’t saying much, they’re still sort of holding back. The family members in this case are very reluctant to talk.
JK – And Adam left very little behind. It’s surprising that someone in this era where almost everything makes an imprint can still leave very few imprints along the way.
There’s been this firestorm of coverage and some of it was right, some of it was wrong.
AG – People are just worn out from having reporters knocking on their doors, calling their house. They see another reporter and they think why would I want to talk to you after all we’ve been through?
VO – From the outset the question was raised again and again in the media, was Nancy a victim or was she to blame?
The story begins in Kingston New Hampshire. Nancy Jean Champion grew up here and in 1981 would marry Peter Lanza.
Eventually they built this house on the Champion family’s land. They had a son, Ryan in 1988 and 4 years later along came Adam.
AG – The person that we’re gonna talk to, he described himself as a dear friend and ummm, and he seems to have been involved with her a lot before she left New Hampshire, so I think he can tell us about life with Adam in the early days.
VO – This is the first time that Marvin LaFontaine has spoken to the media.
AG – Tell me how you first met Nancy.
ML (Marvin LaFontaine) – Through the scouts.
AG – Ok. Do you remember what year she actually joined the Cub Scouts with the boys? What year was it, roughly?
ML – ’94 or ’95.
AG – 1994-95.
ML – Yeah, and Nancy was there for every single meeting with her kids. She never missed one. Those kids were everything to her and uh, she was very, very protective over them and I understand that, I was protective over mine, too.
AG – Just In terms of Adam, what do you remember seeing?
ML – Just a quiet kid. he kept to himself. There was a weirdness about him and Nancy warned me once at one of the scout meetings, she said, “Just so you know, and I know you wouldn’t do this, but just so you know…don’t touch Adam.” I go, “Well I wouldn’t touch him.” She goes, “No I don’t mean like that but I mean like, don’t do an atta-boy thing or shake his hand and say way to go Brother”, ya know. She said, “He just can’t stand that.”
AG – Did you ever see a reaction to touching?
ML – Yeah, he’d become upset. It’d usually be one of the other kids. They’re kids, ya know, they don’t care. And they’d touch him and umm, and I don’t know, he was angry with them.
VO – Marvin’s and Nancy’s young children were friends through the Cub Scouts. In this exclusive home video, filmed by Marvin, Nancy helps her brother, James, a police officer set up a demonstration for the Scouts.
VO – That’s Adam, age four and a half, walking towards the camera.
AG – Did she talk about special programs that Adam was in, at school?
ML – She said he was coded.
AG – And describe “coded” to me.
ML – IEP. Individual Education Plan. I could see that it was bringing her down. She didn’t know what to do, and umm, there’s a lot of couselling help available but not all of it’s good and she was very particular about who she would bring him to. She often didn’t trust the intentions of some counsellors that maybe they didn’t know what they were doing or they didn’t understand the situation enough to help.
VO – Children with disabilities are entitled to an individualized education program known as an IEP. For Nancy it would be the first of many efforts over the next decade and a half to keep a struggling Adam on track.
AG – And then they decide to go to Connecticut.
ML – It was her husbands idea and she didn’t want to go, at first.
AG – Was it because he got the job at GE, is that what it was?
ML – Yeah, yeah. He’d got the job, umm and he made a lot of money, he was very successful and umm, the good thing is that she thought the schools in Connecticut were better. There was more stuff there to help him versus New Hampshire and she was very pleased about that.
VO – It was 1998 when Peter’s job took the family to the affluent suburb of Newtown. They settled into the spacious home where Nancy and Adam would spend the rest of their lives.
Nancy and Marvin kept in touch by email.
AG – “Friday May 21st 1999”, Nancy writes to Marvin, “Adam is in 2 plays next week, Ryan was in one last night. It has been so cute to watch them rehearse. Adam has taken it very seriously, even practicing facial expressions in the mirror.
The emails, at one point, do turn a little dark, umm, she does talk about, umm, how she was ailing. She doesn’t specify what her disease is, umm, but on Thursday, July 1st, 1999 she writes, “My diagnosis was not good. There isn’t a fancy name for my problem just a genetically flawed auto-immune system. When it happened to my grandfather it was so quick that nothing could be done, 6 weeks. It’s like living on top of a time bomb.”
“I have told very few people…” and she highlights “very” in all caps… “and have not told even some people in my family to try and save people from unneccesary worry.”
VO – It has been reported Nancy had Multiple Sclerosis but Frontline and the Hartford Courant were unable to confirm.
AG – “Wednesday, March 31, 1999”, Nancy writes, “Ryan’s and Adam’s birthdays are coming up. Ryan is having an old friend party and a new friend party. Adam is having only a new friend party but he has 26 new friends. Adam is doing well here and seems to enjoy the new school.”
VO – The new school Adam was so fond of was Sandy Hook Elementary School. He was 6 years old and in the first grade.
Wendy Wipprecht’s son, Miles, who was autistic, was in Adam’s class at Sandy Hook and was invited to his “new friends” birthday party.
Wendy now has Parkinsons.
WW (Wendy Wipprecht) – Adam had his 6th birthday party and invited a group of kids to go. That’s where I remember talking with Nancy. Nancy was concerned about Adam. He was shy, a little withdrawn, quiet. She was worried that perhaps he had some kind of neuro-biological condition.
JK – Wendy, were there any support groups?
WW – Oh, sure.
JK – And did you ever participate in any?
WW – Sure.
JK – Did you ever hear if Nancy did?
WW – None of the ones I was in but she was talking about sending Adam to St. Rose because classes were smaller and she thought he might do better there.
JK – Did she say why she thought he needed…
WW – I thought it was his shyness and uncomfortableness, I guess, in large social situations. I mean, a class of 20 people is a lot for a 6 year old to handle.
AG – So did he not have a one-on-one aide like Miles?
WW – No. He may not have been diagnosed with anything at the time. What can pass inspection at 6 often is not going to pass inspection say, at 9. At whatever age and even if you’re merely suspicious it’s a kind of awful thing to have to deal with.
AG – So Nancy, she sort of did it on her own. What do you think that would have been like for you to do it on your own?
WW – Oh, it’s impossible.
VO – Soon after moving to Newtown, tensions developed between Nancy and her husband Peter. In her emails to Marvin LaFontaine she described him working 16 hour days and growing distant.
The Hartford Courant has made repeated attempts to reach Peter Lanza.
AG – We have reached out to multiple family members. There wasn’t anybody that actually wanted to go on record and speak with us but what we had developed along the line is a family member who was willing to give us an email that gave us some really good information about Adam that hadn’t been out there before.
We learned through this email that while Peter and Nancy did get divorced in 2009 Peter had actually been out of the house in 2001.
VO – Peter Lanza continued to support his family financially. The email aslo said that Adam, as a young boy, had been diagnosed with Sensory Integration Disorder, a not widely accepted diagnosis involving difficulties processing and reacting to stimuli. Later, in middle school, the family member said Adam would received another
diagnosis, Aspergers, a form of autism that interferes with social interaction.
AJ – I want to talk a little bit about the middle school years because isn’t this when we start to hear about Adam having problems that go beyond just the diagnosis of Sensory Integration?
AG – We were told around middle school, around the middle school years.
JK – Right. There was the initial diagnosis and then the diagnosis of Aspergers.
AJ – And that goes to social isolation, inability to communicate with others but there’s nothing that connects Aspergers to the kind of violence we saw at Sandy Hook.
JK – Absolutely nothing by itself. Absolutely nothing.
AG – Family members have told us that when middle school came upon Adam and the whole idea of changing classes and being in the hallways, that was too much for him. The noise and the chaos disrupted him is what we were told.
AJ – So she moves him at this point out of the public school system and into St. Rose of Lima.
AG – She didn’t move him into parochial school right away. Initially she had this special program set up for him. He was under the supervision of Newtown schools but he would do some of his work off-site and at home and then he would later return to the school when the rest of the students weren’t there.
AJ – Ok. And after St. Rose of Lima, though, back to Newtown High School, which is a big school. So why if movement and people being around him are a problem, is he back at Newtown High?
JK – I don’t know.
AJ – We don’t know.
VO – Changing schools again, Adam arrives at Newtown High School in 2006 and receives special education help. Though painfully shy and awkward he joins the school technology club at the urging of the club’s advisor, Richard Novia.
RN (Richard Novia) – I knew him for about 4 years, between the middle school and the high school. I indentified him as a person likley to be bullied or picked on and that’s when I began to interact with his mother. How was it that she was dealing with him and what could I do?
JK – And what did she say about that?
RN – She was failing at bringing him out of his little world and I said I think I could help him.
JK – What was her reaction to that?
RN – She didn’t think it’d work.
JK – How often do you recall Nancy being on campus, say, on a weekly basis?
RN – There were periods of time where I think I saw her 2 or 3 times a week and then you’d have a good month or 2 and you might see her once.
JK – Why would she typically be there on a 2 or 3…
RN – Adam had episodes, is the best way I can describe them to you, where he would completely withdraw. He would become accustomed to certain things and when you tried to raise that level or bar, he would pull back.
JK – You mean a change?
RN – Yeah. He would avoid the crowds in the halls, people rushing to the cafeteria, rushing to get to their classes. That would make him nervous, where he felt, umm, fearful of other people. But over time I was able to get closer and closer to him to a point where I felt I could sit next to him and he wouldn’t pull away. He wouldn’t withdraw.
JK – Did Nancy acknowledge that and let you know she recognized that?
RN – Yes. She saw it working.
JK – Did you get a sense that in his development he was at a crossroad?
RN – I think Adam had come a long ways. There’s a picture out there that shows him standing up with the other kids. There’s this funny little face on him. He’s not quite smiling. I was there when those pictuers were taken and I can tell you that to have Adam stand for that picture proves it was a success. So the problem happens after. He goes backwards.
VO – These photographs were obtained exclusively by Frontline. News reports to the contrary, Nancy never spoke of disagreements with the school and believed Adam would grow up to be a functional adult, according to the family member’s email. The relative went on to describe Adam as “brilliant” saying, “He played the saxaphone and studied Mandarin Chinese.” And yet, in 2008, Nancy removes him from Newtown High.
JK – And when you left for other pursuits in July of 2008 did you learn that Nancy Lanza had taken Adam out of high school?
RN – Yes.
JK – Why do you think she pulled him out?
RN – I don’t know. I pondered this issue for a long time. I often wondered if she just felt that one of his main support networks were no longer there, I don’t know.
JK – So you don’t feel like you’re in a position to know whether that was good idea or a bad idea?
RN – Oh it was a bad idea either way.
JK – ‘Kay, ‘kay
RN – You have a boy who was receiving a tremendous amount of support. Suddenly, when she pulls him out of there, he loses all those support groups. That’s where he would have fallen farther and farther into his problems because he didn’t have the mental health support group that he once had.
JK – Richard, when it was observed that Adam, in high school, was playing violent video games did anyone try to dissuade him?
RN – A lot of the kids were playing violent video games, so Adam had shown at that point, early on, some high interest in the violent aspect of those games.
JK – You know that first hand?
RN – I remember that he would, he would opt to sit on the computer playing games like that rather than go play DDR, which is Dance Dance Revolution.
JK – Do you remember what game he may have played?
RN – My best of my recollection, and some people have said there were other games too, but it was World of Warcraft at that time. There’s a lot better games now.
JK – Did it ever come to your attention that Nancy was into shooting sports.
RN – No, that shocked me to hear that Nancy would have had anything to do with guns.
JK – What we understand is that she did shoot with Ryan and Adam, at a range.
RN – Yes. That was a mistake.
JK – Why, Richard?
RN – I have a child that loves to do the hotrod driving simulator on the tv, playing the video games. I should have been able to foresee that my son loved the speed when I bought him his first car. And it wasn’t a couple of weeks after that that he got ticketed for 100 – and something – miles an hour on a town street in Newtown and I went, well, that was my mistake.
JK – You own firearms.
RN – Yes, I do.
JK – And you believe shooting with Ryan and Adam was a mistake?
RN – Yes. I think it was a mistake on her part. And it cost her her life, and that’s the sad thing. It cost her her life, that mistake.
VO – Having left Newton High, Adam, who was still only 16 years old, begins taking classes at Western Connecticut State University. The email from a family member says Nancy was pleased to see him in a more adult environment. But soon Adam withdraws from that school, too.
JK – What we’re looking at is like, this string of changes, and we understand that change wouldn’t have sat well with Adam because of his disposition, his disorder. I think we know his life was marked by change. Nancy, struggled, it seemed, to find an educational fit. Public school, private school, public school, again. Home school, high school, no high school, college, no college.
AG – 2009 the divorce happens after years of being seperated. 2010 comes and Adam cuts off his relationship with his dad.
JK – He didn’t have much to do with Ryan after that, either. So there is some isolation there.
VO – After Adam leaves college information is hard to come by.
JK – This part of his life was difficult to get a fix on because he wasn’t in a place where others could say, ya, I saw him, ya, I did this with him, ya, he did that. We understand that he worked at a computer shop. We haven’t been able to find the one that hired him but it could have been someone’s house, it could have been a small shop.
AG – we did learn that Nancy was working to make her son more independent. She was going on trips and leaving Adam at home. She was very excited at the fact that he got his driver’s license in 2010.
JK – She was the dominant and perhaps the only, significant relationship in his life, to the end.
VO – The Courant has learned that investigators have speculated privately that Adam may have carried out the shooting in a manner consistant with video gaming, changing his weapons magazine frequently even though it was not empty.
Federal agents have told reporters that Nancy and Adam visited shooting ranges together as recently as several months ago.
JK – She was doing a lot of work on her house. We talked to a contractor who spoke about Nancy taking the boys to the range. She excitedly showed him a rifle that she had acquired, in a case. A beautifully crafted piece that he said she was very enthusiastic about.
VO – Starting in 2010 she purchsed guns that Adam would use at Sandy Hook Elementary school. Including the Bushmaster assault rifle. But guns were nothing new for Nancy Lanza.
ML – Nancy knew how to use guns. Her father trained her. I have 35 acres and I got a sand pit out there and I have rifles and we’d shoot, together. In fact one of the activities at the Cub overnight weekends was shooting .22s at a rifle range. I think that was the first exposure the kids had to a firearm and they found it fun. Target shooting is fun.
JK – Did Adam shoot?
ML – Yeah. They all did. And umm, Adam aspired to be like his uncle.
AG – Really?
ML – Yeah. He was in the military and she was a very proud of that and umm, which allowed him to believe that, yeah, you’re gonna be like your uncle and depending on how he turned out sometimes people could overcome that with medication, counselling, whatever, they can. They can and do. And I think maybe she was hoping for that.
And then, one day, I think she realized, probably not too long ago, there’s no way this kid can do this, he’s, it’s not for him. And when she realized that, I think she started to discourage him.
AG – Nancy had a group of friends that she hung out with at a restaurant in Newtown and many in that group feel Nancy has been forgotten in all this and, umm, Mark, the owner of the restaurant, umm, he said there were about 4 friends that would probably be willing to talk with us and John is one of them.
VO – John Bergquist first met Nancy at My Place 2 years ago.
JB (John Bergquist) – You know, it was a media frenzy. You’d see a lot of things, you know, pop up on your tv or in the papers that just, I think, you know, they rushed to get, you know, these facts out that weren’t accurate. She’s been described as some sort of gun nut or survivalist and, you know, maybe another misconception that she was a bad mother. I mean, she did everything she could.
AG – And did she talk to you about Adam?
JB – She did.
AG – Did she ever specifically tell you that he had Aspergers?
JB – Yes, she told me that he had Aspergers.
JK – But did you get a sense, John that it was time consuming or emotion consuming.
JB – You know, she was always very positive. She never talked about having a rough day, umm, you know, and that could be she, when she, you know, came into the bar that was her release and maybe she didn’t want to talk about, uhh, things like that but, you know, I can’t ever remember Nancy having a rough day, you know, and just
unloading on me.
JK – John, was it your impression that not a lot of people went into the house? Not a lot of visitors even friends? Or did they go into the house?
JB – No, not a lot of people went into the house. You know, Nancy was very particular just like me, you know, I’m a bit of a neat freak and I just assumed that she was towards the more the extreme end but I don’t think that was it. Maybe that was a little bit of an excuse and I think Adam was, you know, uncomfortable having too
many people around.
JK – Do you think it would have been reasonable to question whether the firearms and his exposure on the range and the shooting was anything but enjoyable to him or anything that, uhh, that he appeared not to want, that she would have continued?
JB – That thought never crossed my mind because he was never violent, she never feared him, umm, it was a way for them to bond. I think it was one way that she could, umm, connect with Adam because, you know, they have a very hard time connecting with people and maybe finding an activity that they both enjoyed was, you know, her
way of bonding with her son.
AG – Did you ever get the sense that she was in denial of his Aspergers or do you think she fully embraced the diagnosis.
JB – I think she fully embraced that diagnosis and she was taking it on the way that she thought was best. Making sure that he was going to lead as normal life as psosible.
AG – And how do you know that?
JB – Umm, I know she was planning on, umm, you know, going wherever he wanted to go in the country to go to college. She was talking about Washington state. I don’t know a specific school but, umm, I don’t think it was against his will. I think it was either his decision or something perhaps they discussed, umm, and I don’t
think it was a factor in causing him to snap. If he said that he didn’t want to go she wouldn’t have insisted.
VO – Planning for the move was in advanced stages according to Mark Tambascio, owner of My Place, who declined to speak on camera.
MT (Mark Tambascio) – She used to say, you know, “Mark, I really hope Adam gets to a point where he can take care of himself and I don’t have to be there all the time.” She’s been looking for a school for him, a special school so he can finish out his college.
AG – She told you that?
MT – Yeah. For a couple of years she’s been looking.
AG – Did she actually find something rock-solid?
MT – I think so. She said she sold her tickets. If she sold her, she was like, the biggest Red Sox fan ever, so…
VO – Nancy loved the Boston Red Sox. She and Peter had season tickets and split them. One of the few things spelled out in the divorce agreement. Frontline and the Courant have made numerous attempts to identify which school Nancy was planning to enroll Adam in but were unable to confirm.
JK – Change would not sit well with him. Something as profound as moving from Newtown would be disturbing for a kid that has trouble walking down a crowded hallway.
A contractor told us that she had wanted to sell the house for a couple of years, so I don’t think that’s something that came up, this idea of moving, right before the tragedy. The question is was he driving it or was she driving it?
AJ – Everything we’ve heard points to the fact that they were getting ready to go some place. We really don’t know if he wanted what she was planning. Has anyone raised the possibility that he shot her because he didn’t want to go where she was going to take him? Has anybody addressed that issue?
JK – I don’t think anyone’s said that.
AG – No one’s ever talked about it but she really wanted him to get a degree and surprisngly he didn’t want a major in science or computers. He wanted a major, in of all things, history.
When a family member questioned, “You’re gonna move out of New England?” And she told the family member, “You never turn your back on your kids.”
JK – She was a decisive woman. She chose, we think, not to be involved in the groups in Newtown of parents that have autistic and Aspergers kids.
AJ – Well wouldn’t you think that that would be to both his and her benefit to get involved in those groups?
JK – You would.
AG – It could have been an issue of ignorance. It could have also been an issue of denial.
AJ – So, do we know anything about the few days leading up to Sandy Hook, leading up to the Friday as far as Adam went?
AJ – Nothing. What about Nancy?
JK – We do know that she was in a fine dining room of a hotel. She Facebooked her friend, John Bergquist.
AG – So I’ll read it to you, Josh. “I am sitting at dinner at a place that requires formal attire. The young couple next to me, dressed to kill but covered in tatoos. Too funny!”
And then John mentions, “Hopefully we can get together soon for dinner during the holidays.”
And then she says, “That would be fun. let me know. Just be forewarned, Tatoo girl has talked me into a dragon tatoo.”
So was she considering getting a dragon tatoo?
JB – No, that was her humor. I’m sure she didn’t even talk to the couple but, uhh, you know, she was just being funny there. She had an excellent sense of humor.
AG – Ohhh. I see, I see.
VO – The following day Nancy came back from New Hampshire to the house that she still shared with her 20 year old son. What happened next is a mystery. The investigation may take months. But that night Nancy went to sleep in her own bed. At some point, before she awoke, Adam went to her gun collection. Passing up the semi-automatic
weapons he would use later, Adam picked up Nancy’s .22 caliber rifle, the kind of gun he first learned to shoot and at close range, while she slept, he shot the woman that raised him, 4 times in the head.
Then he got in the car his mother taught him to drive and headed towards his old elementary school.
MB (Mark Barden) – I got an automated phone message from the school that the schools were in lockdown. And then we got the news that there had been a report of a shooting at Sandy Hook school. and I ran out the door. I just, I headed to the school, quickly.
There’s a firehouse down the street from the school where they, they were having everybody assemble and they were bringing all the students and personnel out of the school and having us meet there. And, umm, my friend Melissa had collected her second grader and she asked her husband to pick him up and bring him home. And, I said to Melissa, I said, “You should go home and be with him”, and she said “No I’ll stay her with you til you get Daniel.”
JB (Jaqueline Barden) – And then the Governor came and said, “If you’re missing someone, they didn’t survive.”
MK (Matthew Kauffman – Hartford Courant Reporter) – Umm, yeah, one of the teachers, her step-father is a reporter here and I think there’s sort of a defence mechanism. I thought it couldn’t be. We’d know already, something. And, umm, eventually, umm, it was confirmed so, you know, a story that was difficult enough for all us to report anyway was, you know, that much more emotional, that much more difficult.
The sort of over arching issue I’m looking at is whether or not Sandy Hook truly is a tipping point in the debate over gun violence and that whatever the solutions are out there these 20 innocent children lost, this will make a difference, and I’m sort of examining that optomism against the reality that the gun control debate in America is exceedingly devisive.
Sandy Hook Promise Press Conference
SHP – Nicole Hockley – It is a sad honor to be here today. It’s been one month since I lost my son, Dylan and 25 other families lost their loved ones. The Sandy Hook Promise is the start of our change. This is a promise to do everything in our power to be remembered, not as the town filled with grief and victims, but as the place where real change began.
SHP – Unidentified Speaker 1 – This is a promise, to be open to all possibilities. There is no agenda other than to make our communities and our nation a safer, better place.
MK – Matthew Kauffman with the Hartford Courant. Can you give us a sense of how active you intend to be, or do you anticipate a point at which Sandy Hook Promise would actually be testifying, lobbying, if you will?
SHP – Unidentified Speaker 2 – We have to take the time to educate ourselves. We have to take the time to have that dialogue but absolutely there’s gonna become a moment in time where we’re going to take those positions.
We’re a platform for people to come together with one voice in actions to move us forward.
SHP – Unidentified Speaker 3 – Some of us who came together to start Sandy Hook Promise are gun owners. We hunt, we target shoot, we protect our homes, we’re collectors, we teach our sons and daughters to use guns safely. Passing a new law and then moving on is not the answer. We have to fundamentally change our approach.
MK – A lot of people were surprised at how many guns Nancy Lanza owned and the type of guns that they were but in fact there’s a strong gun culture in Newtown. A lot of hunters, a lot of target shooters, a lot of gun owners.
AC (Aaron Cox) – After December 14th everybody’s been asking me, has it changed how I felt about firearms and To be honest, no. This is how I’ve thought.
MK – Do you feel yourself sort of under attack as a responsible firearms owner?
AC – I have friends who are devout NRA members who believe that the second amendment gives everybody the right to own any firearm. Vise versa I have friends here in town who believe that all firearms should be confiscated and destroyed. And I’m somewhere in the middle. As far as a ban on 30 round clips, that’s, it’s a common sense law. It would absolutely save lives, and there’s gonna be a bunch of people upset that I said that.
MK – Do you feel, “Oh no, I’m betraying the gun enthusiast community here”, that, uhh…
AC – I will lose friends. I’m sure of it.
MK – We are heading to the home of a gentleman named Scott Ostrosky. A Newtown resident, has kind of a private, amature shooting range on his property that has been the subject of a number of complaints by folks who live in the neighborhood.
SO (Scott Ostrosky) – We’ve gotten complaints of noise ’cause we have a neighbor that’s been more sensitive to the shooting in the past couple of years and the police have been over here many times and they have said it was safe and we’ve become buddies with them.
MK – And there are complaints sort of from all over the town going to the police. Is there something that changed in Newtown?
SO – Yes. A lot more people live her now and a lot more outsiders have moved in and these are people that, moving to Newtown, is big country to them. These are people that, in my opinion, came from New York city, or the suburbs of New York City or any urban environment and they’re not used to what goes on in Newtown or what has been going on. And then you get that conflict. It’s just, you know, growing pains in a situation like this.
MK – Each of these red dots represents a home from which a complaint was lodged with the police about the sound of gun fire near these homes. I think this was 2010 to the first part of 2012, 85 noise complaints related to shooting. Spread pretty broadly throughout the town. So last year the town decided to do something about it.
JF (Joel Faxon – Newtown Police Commission) – I think it had just reached sort of a critical mass of a number of complaints, so, we set this ordinance up and it would say, look, you can not shoot a gun in Newtown unless you’re doing legitimate hunting or you have a legitimate shooting range.
MK – Did this feel like controversial legislation, ordinance to you? As you were drafting it did you think…
JF – Not in the least. Absolutely, not in the least. I never expected that there would be any significant opposition to it. They had 2 public hearings on it and there were a lot of people there and they were, uhh, very vocal in opposition to the ordinance.
MK – These are the minutes of the meetings that were held, “Necessity should be the standard not simply prudence”. “Gunfire is a reminder of freedom”. One person notes that, “No one in attendence has spoken in favor of the ordinance”.
So really, you know, very strong emotions over again, what I think the town thought was a noise ordinance.
JF – And it all had to do with their ability to maintain arms and somehow this would infringe their second amendment rights.
MK – Any inkling at all that you might be opening up a second amendment debate here?
JF – No. Because the second amendment has nothing to do with shooting ranges. It doesn’t say, “The right to have a shooting range shall not be infringed”.
MK – This all happened in the months before the shootings and only a handful of people showed up in support of the ordinance. The town meetings were dominated by pro gun enthusiasts and the ordinance was tabled. And that really illustrated the long history that Newtown has with guns. In fact the trade group for the whole gun industry is located right here. The National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Within Newtown is the NSSF known? I’ve talked to a number of people from town who have said, “I had no idea they were here.”
SS (Steve Sanetti – President, NSSF) – Yeah, well Connecticut is not well known now, for being a state of great firearms ownership but ironically, Connecticut is where the firearms industry got it’s beginning. All the major manufacturers of firearms and ammunition were generally centered in the Connecticut River Valley during the industrial revolution and that’s why the National Shooting Sports Foundation is in Connecticut.
SS – Ladies and gentlemen. the state of our industry, tonight, in a word, is misunderstood. Now who among us has not been moved by that unspeakable tragedy that was inflicted by a deranged man upon the children of Newtown, Connecticut? Our very home at the NSSF.
MK – You had said that the state of the industry is “misunderstood”. Now what’s the biggest misunderstanding about it?
SS – There are many. According to the media we are nothing but a bunch of greedy fat-cats who could care less about anything but making profit. We’re in this business because we love it.
Rather than saying that guns are bad what we we say is, guns are here. Guns are part of the fabric of our society and so what we need to do is to make sure that responsible gun owners make sure that they’re not accessable to children or at risk individuals. If this woman had safely stored her guns, inaccessable to her son, when they were not in use, this shooting would not have occurred.
President Obama – In the month since 20 precious children and 6 brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook Elementary more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun. So I’m putting forward a specific set of proposals and in the days ahead I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality.
Unidentified Speaker – Our government is treading a thin, thin line of becoming tyrannical. And whether it’s King George or Barack Hussein Obama, oppression is oppression. Gun control isn’t about guns, it’s about control. I only have one comment. I will not comply.
FK (Frank Koughan – Frontline – Producer) – Historically with the pro gun lobby they’ve really become entrenched when challenged. One of the questions, I think, is do 20 dead first graders change that equation?
MK – So far it hasn’t and I think what makes this such an intractable issue is even after Sandy Hook there are 2 camps. The 2 camps are, “what we need to make our communities safer is fewer guns” and the other camp saying, “no, what we need to make our communities safer is more guns”. I don’t know where the common ground is on this when it starts that far apart.
MK – We’re 48 days past the date. When did you start thinking that you have a larger role to play here?
MB – I, I, I feel like, we’ve been forced on to a platform. And I think it, I feel, we feel, a sense of responsibility and a feel of obligation, a sense of obligation now to do whatever we can.
JB – We’re not political, Mark and I. We’re not, you know, umm, confrontational people, umm…
MB – But I think we can’t, we can’t allow ourselves to become complacent and just say, “that’s how it is here in the United States, you know, these things happen”. That’s just not acceptable.
Newton Action Alliance Meeting
Unidentified Speaker – I have felt guilt and shame about the fact that in this particular topic I have never done a single thing. I’ve been awakened and, umm, I will not be caught napping on the job from here on out.
Unidentified Speaker 2 – I just need to do something ’cause I’m like so many other people, umm, I can’t stop thinking about what happened, so…
Richard Moratto – I’m Richard Moratto. I have a first grader at Sandy Hook. By the grace of God she was shoved in the bathroom with 14 friends and her teacher, uhh, I won’t begin to tell you the things that she says and draws right now and it’s progressively getting worse, so, anything we can do for our community. But I think we all need to get on the same page and if someone does speak tomorrow lets all be on the same page.
Unidentified Speaker 3 – There’s a huge silent majority out there that, I believe, is easily motivated to not be silent anymore if we give them the tools and that’s what we’re working towards.
Unidentified Speaker 4 – When you go out and you advocate your power is 1000/1, ’cause people aren’t showing up and the fact that you’re from Newtown is even more important.
Unidentified Speaker 5 – I feel like our grief puts us in a unique position of power and I actually believe that we can, with that power, help level the playing field with the special interests that are out there.
Unidentified Speaker 4 – I do think the tide is turning but our window right now is extremely limited. This is gonna move very, very quickly.
MK – I’ve never had to wait in line to get into the legislative office building. I’ve never had to walk through a metal detector to get into the legislative office building so, this is most definitely a moment in my state and the nation, as well.
Unidentified Speaker 1 – My daughter was a student in Victoria Soto’s first grade class. She survived. She and 8 other children ran from that room directly past him but not before witnessing her friends and her teacher slaughtered in front of her.
Unidentified Speaker 2 – So here we are again. Another mass shooting, another deranged perpetrator and the response is, yet again, ban guns.
Unidentified Speaker 3 – Something needs to change. We need to be able to send our kids to school without fear.
Unidentified Speaker 4 – As much as you might detest this thought, at the end of the day, the only protection against a bad man with a gun, is a good man, or woman, with a gun, in the right place at the right time.
MK – Guns are a fault line in this sort of varied American experience and they have this capacity to sort of create this emotional cleave in a way that, I think, maybe abortion comes close to. But other than that no other issue really seperates the nation this substantially.
Unidentified Speaker 5 – If the principal had come out of her office with a gun in her hand she might have at least mitigated the carnage.
Unidentified Speaker 6 – We are incredulous at the types of assault and semi-automatic weapons and magazine clips that are considered legal.
MK – A lot of people on both sides think that some change will come but it will come not as the result of a meeting of the minds of these 2 far apart camps, uhh, but simply because one side or the other musters sufficient political power to get their way.