Doesn't Shooter's Father Peter Lanza Deserve Our Sympathy Too?

Newtown Sandy hookIt's been what, six days since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School made us all stop what we were doing and focus our every thought on Newtown, Connecticut? And in that time we have heard from Adam Lanza's father, Peter Lanza, just once. The man whose son killed first his ex-wife, Nancy Lanza, then 20 children and six more innocent adults, released a statement on Saturday before going back into hiding.

I understand why he's gone underground. What I can't fathom is the backlash against him.


In these past few days I've read attacks on the Lanzas for daring to divorce -- as if that somehow sent their son on a path to massacre (really, let's look at the divorce statistics in this country, then compare them to the number of mass shootings ... I think you know where I'm going with this). Others have criticized Peter in particular for being absent from his son's life; even though details of the Lanza's divorce show that Peter was not only paying alimony to his wife to the tune of $289,800, but also paying Adam's medical and school bills

There are reports that Adam Lanza cut his dad off in 2010 when Peter started dating again. But by that time, Adam was 18, an adult. Adults not speaking to their parents are a dime a dozen. Sometimes it's because the parents are awful, sometimes because the adult child is finally free of their shackles. Either way, a parent cannot force a relationship with an adult child.

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And yet, there are the critics.

The criticisms aren't quite as harsh as those lobbed against Nancy Lanza, but still, they are there. How could he let this happen? What kind of man is Peter Lanza?

We are looking for someone to blame.

But we already have that someone. Adam Lanza shot up a school. Adam Lanza murdered children.

His father is not a victim in the way that those children are. He is blessed with his life.

But he is a victim all the same. He is a man who could not have known that the flesh of his flesh, blood of his blood, would become one of the most reviled criminals of his generation. He could not have foreseen Adam walking into a school armed to the teeth and destroying the lives of more than two dozen families, his own included. 

Because Peter Lanza's life has been destroyed. His elder son Ryan's life has been destroyed.

Forever these men will be haunted by what happened in Newtown on Friday. They will no doubt be asking themselves if they could have done something to stop it, if they saw the signs. This is human nature.

They will spend their lives having to answer questions -- some well-meant, some simply nosy, others twisted and cruel.

One day Peter Lanza will have to come out of hiding and begin to live again, live as so many cannot because of what his son did. But Peter Lanza deserves that shot at life. Because Peter Lanza is not the man who put the words Sandy Hook Elementary School on everyone's lips. His son did.

These two men, they were different, are different. Let's not forget that.

Have you been thinking about Peter Lanza this week? What would you like to say to him today?


Image via John Moore/Getty Images

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