March 10, 2014 at 8:18 AM ET
The father of Newtown, Conn. school shooter Adam Lanza told a writer for The New Yorker that he and his ex-wife, Nancy, never suspected their son was dangerous.
"Nancy Lanza had grown up a ‘live free or die’ New Hampshire gal, and she had a sense that guns were part of everyday life,'' author and journalist Andrew Solomon told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Monday. Nancy, a gun enthusiast who was shot and killed by her son, kept several firearms in the house. The Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle that Adam used belonged to her. "I don’t think guns should be a part of everyday life, but I think they had no sense that Adam was dangerous. They thought he was peculiar, but they never thought he would hurt anyone. Peter, who taught him to drive, said he was the 'safest, most cautious, most rule-following person I ever met.'''
In an article in this week's issue of The New Yorker, Peter Lanza spoke to Solomon, the author of "Far From the Tree," a book about how parents deal with children — including criminal children — who are different from them.
Lanza told Solomon in the piece that he does not mourn the loss of his son.
"He said...that he really felt that he wished Adam had never been born, and he said he struggled with coming to that, but what happened was so horrific he could only wish it away,'' Solomon said.
It is the first time since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, when Adam fatally shot 20 children and six staff members before killing himself, that Peter Lanza has spoken out.
"He's haunted,'' Solomon said about Peter Lanza. "He wishes he could go back in time and fix what went wrong. He’s a kind, decent man, and he’s horrified that his own child could’ve caused this destruction."
"He said he’d been contacted by so many victims’ families, and he said he finally thought his story was an important part of the puzzle and that he had a moral obligation to tell it,'' Solomon said. "That it might help the families, or it might help prevent another Newtown."
Lanza has had several "heartbreaking" meetings with families whose children were killed in the shooting.
"He said one of the families had said to him that they were ready to forgive Adam," Solomon said. "He said a family that lost their son, their only son. He said, 'If my trading places with them could ease their pain, I’d do it in a heartbeat.'''
In the article, Lanza indicates that he believes Adam's diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome may have masked potential schizophrenia.
"Adam had what was then called Asperger’s syndrome and what would now be autism spectrum disorder,'' Solomon said. "He had a certain amount of autism, and the autism made him as his father said, ‘very weird.’ Because they had a diagnosis, it didn’t occur to them that anything else was wrong.
"Whenever Adam was being strange or peculiar, he thought it was just the Asperger’s, and he didn’t look past it. But Adam saw a huge number of psychiatrists and psychologists, and none of them detected hints of violence. (Peter) said he wishes he tried harder because he said, ‘Anything I did differently might have changed the outcome, and the outcome couldn’t have been worse or more evil, but at the time I didn’t see it.'''
Lanza also indicated that his ex-wife, Adam's mother, Nancy Lanza, may have masked Adam's deterioration in the time leading up to the shooting. Peter Lanza had not seen Adam for two years before the shootings.
"Nancy Lanza was always trying to give Adam a good day, and she didn’t think enough about giving him a good life,'' Solomon said. "She dealt with the crises as they came along, and she wasn’t open. She was trying to make everyone think everything was OK as her son got worse and worse."
But Peter Lanza does not blame his ex-wife.
"He very specifically doesn’t blame her,'' Solomon said. "He said, ‘I was trying hard. She was trying far harder. She did her best.’''