Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mother-Son Bond over Guns Links Oregon, Connecticut Slayings

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mother-Son Bond over Guns Links Oregon, Connecticut Slayings

Article excerpt

PORTLAND, Ore. * The deadly shooting last week at a community college in Oregon has an eerie parallel with the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 20 pupils and six adult staff members in 2012.

Like Adam Lanza, the gunman in the Connecticut massacre, Christopher Harper-Mercer was living a mostly solitary life with a mother who shared his fascination with firearms.

Both stories illustrate the struggles parents face caring for a deeply troubled child.

"When you begin to bring guns into the home environment where you have that dangerous cocktail of behavior, that's pretty unbelievable," said Mary Ellen O'Toole, a former FBI profiler who directs George Mason University's forensic science program.

The comparison to Lanza extends to the relationships both shooters had with their mothers and guns.

Both women were longtime gun enthusiasts, not uncommon in many parts of America where gun ownership is prevalent and encouraged. The two mothers amassed weapons and took their sons to shooting ranges, according to the investigation into the Sandy Hook shooting and the Daily Breeze newspaper in Torrance, Calif., where Laurel Harper lived for years with her son.

It's easy to judge them in hindsight, but deeply strained and complicated relationships often lead to bad or desperate parental decisions with tragic consequences, said psychologist Peter Langman, author of two books on school shooters. Many troubled young people are so impaired they're incapable of living on their own.

"In some cases, (parents) don't recognize there's a problem," Langman said. "In other cases, they're aware of their child's mental health issues, but they don't see any evidence of violence, so they don't see any reason not to take their kid target shooting."

Parents may also use guns to bond with a mentally troubled, isolated child who is obsessed with weapons and violence, he said.

Harper's online postings don't indicate that she knew her son had violent tendencies, but it is clear that she relished her weapons. …

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