Adam Lanza’s DNA to Be Analyzed

In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., people want answers and some think they may be locked away in Adam Lanza’s genes.

The Connecticut medical examiner has asked geneticists to study Adam Lanza’s DNA. Lanza is the man responsible for the mass murder in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 27 dead including 20 first graders. The study, which will be the first of its kind, will be looking for abnormalities or mutations in Lanzas genetic makeup. ABC News reports,

Geneticists not directly involved in the study said they are likely looking at Lanza’s DNA to detect a mutation or abnormality that could increase the risk of aggressive or violent behavior. They could analyze Lanza’s entire genome in great detail and try to find unexpected mutations.

Arthur Beaudet, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine and the chairman of Baylor College of Medicine’s department of molecular and human genetics, said the geneticists involved in the study are more than likely going to try to,

Detect clear abnormalities of what we would call a mutation in a gene … or gene abnormalities and there are some abnormalities that are related to aggressive behavior … They might look for mutations that might be associated with mental illnesses and ones that might also increase the risk for violence.

We already know that there are some gene mutations that are known to be associated with aggressiveness and even violence, but these types of studies are controversial because of the stigma they create for people with similar genetic characteristics. Other experts in the field are not quite so confident that this study is a good idea.

Dr. Harold Bursztajn, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School said,

Given how wide the net would have to be cast and given the problem of false positives in testing it is much more likely we would go ahead and find some misleading genetic markers, which would later be proven false while unnecessarily stigmatizing a very large group of people … It’s too risky from the stand point of unduly stigmatizing people, but also from distracting us from real red flags to prevent violence from occurring. The last thing we need when people are in the midst of grief is offering people quick fixes which may help our anxiety, but can be counterproductive to our long term safety and ethics.

Although there may be a genetic component to crime, it is important to remember that one single thing can’t be blamed for what happened in Sandy Hook, Aurora, or Portland, to name a few of the most recent mass shootings. There is not a simple explanation as to why a person would walk into an elementary school, or movie theater, or mall and intentionally take the lives of multiple people. More than likely it is a combination of many things. Yes, a person’s genetic makeup may predispose them to be more aggressive, but environment plays as important a role in determining how a person behaves in a given situation as anything else.

However, when people are hurting and in need of answers they tend to latch on to the one thing that makes the most sense, and in a case where nothing makes sense it’s easier to blame the genetics than anything else. Easier to say it was a mutation in Lanza’s DNA than the culture of violence that prevails in our society, or the lack of adequate mental healthcare available to those who need it. It absolves us as a community of any of the blame for the death of innocents if we can point a finger and say, ‘he was a freak, his genetics prove it.’

Photo: Abode of Chaos/Flickr

Read more:

Mass Shooting of Children in Connecticut

Newtown Massacre: Stop Conflating Violence and Mental Illness

Guns Don’t Make Americans Violent, America Does

 

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About Kathryn DeHoyos

Kathryn DeHoyos currently resides on the outskirts of Austin, TX. She has 2 beautiful children, and is very happily un-married to her life partner DJ.

Comments

  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    ref, Culture of violence. Compared to what? The US fifty years ago? The UK, where rape is three times as likely as here, and crimes of violence also per-capita more common? Ditto Australia?
    “adequate mental health care”. As in involuntary commitment for a nerd? Let’s have some specifics.
    Otherwise, we’re just pointing fingers at smoke.

    • And what would be the per capita comparison for the homicide rate Richard? Maybe Americans are more proficient at making homicide than making burglary…even if they shoot themselves in the foot doing so.

      I feel everything needs to be looked at – all factors, including any increase in propensity related to genetic and environmental factors. Why would anyone want less than the most available and useful information?

  2. Or maybe the hardest of all, personal responsibility.

  3. Pseudo-science at best is what I’m reading…
    What will Adam Lanza’s dissection at a molecular level prove unless any hypothesis can be subjected to the scientific method?
    We already know that his primary fault is he was male…
    His problems can’t be related to autism- didn’t Jenny McCarthy prove to us autism isn’t genetic but caused by vaccines- so what other little genetic glitch will be found, especially one without an active lobby of victims?
    Until hundreds of thousands of people are subjected to the same analysis this is simply phrenology for the 21st century…

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