This past Sunday marked the anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school which claimed the lives of 26 people, among them 20 children. In the weeks leading up to the anniversary those affected by it began preparing, each in their own way:  news outlets ran stories on the perpetrator and the victims; pundits and lobbyists debated issues surrounding the shootings; families argued for both privacy and advocacy; and in Colorado a young man went on a killing spree.

Like Adam Lanza, he was suicidal and homicidal. Like the Columbine killers – Dylan Kleibold and Eric Harris – he was armed with guns and explosives. Like Charles Whitman his targets were specific people and institutions, but as more facts emerge we will likely learn that his hatred was somewhat broad and all-encompassing. He may or may not have been mentally ill, but more than likely he will be described as ‘disturbed’, a ‘loner’, ‘hostile’ or ‘paranoid’.

Mass Shooters exist in a somewhat unique space in the American consciousness. We know them, yet cannot predict their actions. They influence the discussion but rarely change policy. They are theoretically the greatest beneficiaries of the American dream – white, male, often middle class, somewhat educated – yet they target the most American of American institutions: schools, families, even churches.

This is our reality. So, in this series we will examine the mass shooting, who commits them, why they do it, and finally what can be done to stop them.

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