Sandy Hook report: Shooter’s mom wanted to buy him gun for Christmas

Liz Goodwin
Senior National Affairs Reporter

The mother of mass killer Adam Lanza wrote her son a check to buy a pistol as a Christmas present in the days leading up to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, according to an official report out Monday.

Nancy Lanza — who was killed by her 20-year-old son last December before he killed six women and 20 children at the Connecticut elementary school — told friends a month before the shooting that she was concerned about her son. He had not left the house for three months, and he communicated with her only via email, she said. She was not allowed to enter his room.

But despite what seemed like mental health warning signs, the police found a check in the Lanza home for a CZ 83 pistol, which Nancy Lanza intended to give to her son over the holidays, according to a report released by a Connecticut state's attorney. The check’s date section read “Christmas Day.”

“The mother wanted to buy the shooter a CZ 83 pistol for Christmas and had prepared a check for that purchase to give the shooter,” the report reads.

The Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle Lanza used in the elementary school, as well as the four other weapons recovered from the crime scenes, belonged to his mother. She purchased them legally, and had a permit for their use. The report doesn’t make it clear whether Nancy Lanza had the weapons locked away in her home or whether her son had free access to them.

Adam Lanza frequently went target shooting with his mother and brother between 2010 and 2012, and had taken rifle safety classes with them. Fifty-two-year-old Nancy Lanza used target practice as a way to bond with her withdrawn and troubled son, according to a February Hartford Courant/Frontline investigation.

This fact led some to blame Nancy Lanza for her son’s crimes, even though she was one of his 27 victims. In the days after the shooting, the New York Post plastered her photo on its front page, with the headline, "Gun-obsessed mom taught murderer son to shoot."

Her friends defended her from the criticism, saying she taught him gun safety and spent much of her time trying to help her son navigate his many mental health issues. "She's been described as some sort of gun nut or survivalist and this other misconception that she was a bad mother," Nancy Lanza’s friend John Bergquist told Frontline. But he said her life "revolved around caring for Adam."

Nancy Lanza did not fear that her son was violent, but she was concerned about his behavior, the state’s attorney’s report reveals. Lanza had a variety of mental health diagnoses — including obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and Asperger syndrome — but refused all treatment that was recommended to him.

"The shooter disliked birthdays, Christmas and holidays," the report reads. "He would not allow his mother to put up a Christmas tree. The mother explained it by saying that shooter had no emotions or feelings. The mother also got rid of a cat because the shooter did not want it in the house."

Officials say Lanza’s attack was premeditated and that it’s unknown if his mental health issues contributed to his decision to commit his crimes. He extensively researched other mass shootings — including the Columbine shootings — and had compiled a spreadsheet about them.