Everyone Who Claims Adam Lanza Didn’t Use an AR-15-Style Rifle Is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
March 22 2013 11:05 AM

Everyone Who Claims Adam Lanza Didn’t Use an AR-15-Style Rifle Is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Sandy Hook School
Balloons hang on a sign at the entrance to Sandy Hook School on December 15, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut.

Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

Crime is Slate’s crime blog. Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @slatecrime.

On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza used an AR-15-style Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle to kill 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Or did he? Ever since the shooting, there’s been a persistent rumor that Lanza actually used two handguns to kill his victims—not the Bushmaster. I get a lot of emails to this effect, and so I thought it would be worth my while to lay out some facts. Adam Lanza did use the Bushmaster in the Sandy Hook shootings, and anyone who says otherwise is wrong, wrong, wrong.


My source for this is the Connecticut State Police, who apparently were also tired of fielding questions about Lanza’s choice of weapons. In January, they issued a news release to set things straight. Here’s the relevant part:

The shooter used the Bushmaster .223 to murder 20 children and six adults inside the school; he used a handgun to take his own life inside the school. No other weapons were used in this crime. This case remains under investigation.

That seems unequivocal and definitive. So how did the rumors get started? Some of them seem to trace back to YouTube videos purporting to show the Bushmaster lying unused in the trunk of Lanza’s car. But, according to the Connecticut State Police, the gun in the trunk was a shotgun, not a rifle, which means the video’s credibility is on par with those blurry films purporting to show Sasquatch in the wild. (Some people claim that the footage shows there were two long guns in the car’s trunk, a shotgun and a rifle. I just don’t see it.)

Others have cited television broadcasts from the time of the shooting, in which various networks reported that Lanza used handguns instead of the Bushmaster rifle. But the media reported a lot of false things that day. They reported that Adam Lanza’s brother Ryan was the shooter. They reported that Lanza’s mother was a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary. This proves nothing other than that reliable information is hard to come by in a crisis, and that networks should probably refrain from going on-air with unconfirmed facts.

Lots of gun owners seem to think that the mainstream media will do or say anything to fulfill its secret agenda of banning all guns. As one message board commenter put it after rhetorically asking why President Obama and the media were so hell-bent on insisting that Lanza used the Bushmaster in the Sandy Hook massacre: “Could it be so they can do a gun grab? Could it be because they don't want any type of firearms that the people defend themselves against a commie/socilist [sic] goverment take over? Why does the MSM keep lying?”

OK, I get the fear and mistrust, I get the us-against-them stuff. But the facts of the Lanza matter are clear. And there’s something else that’s becoming increasingly obvious the longer this ridiculous rumor circulates: The media aren’t the only ones who distort facts toward their own ends.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.


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