I found it surprising that in all the media coverage concerning Chris Harper Mercer, even after showing a brief interview on camera with his British absentee father, there was almost no mention of his mother with whom he lived. It took several days before I found out online that Laurel Harper is a black woman who works as a nurse, who shared a one bedroom apartment with her son along with her interest in firearms and shooting ranges. After reading about her ongoing efforts to control her neighbors’ voice levels, her building’s insect infestation, the behavior of pets - all in the name of protecting her fragile son from external annoyances - I wondered what she was thinking as she tallied up the count of 14 weapons available to her “Asperger” son who had already proved unable to get along with people, with school or with the army.
In all our national soul-searching about how best to identify alienated loners who seem to be the classic profile for potential mass-killers, why have we overlooked the most obvious place to start - the parents. In this case, they were divorced and only the mother knew firsthand the depth of her son’s isolation from normal relationships. Yet she, like Adam Lanza’s mother, encouraged her son’s obsession with guns, bought some of these weapons herself and knew the extent of this home arsenal. What part of the blame for this horrendous massacre does this mother share? As a nurse who knew that her son was, at the very least, developmentally and emotionally disabled, what was her liability in continuing to procure and harbor weapons of destruction in her home? Is she to remain legally immune from complicity in this crime? If the law can’t charge her with anything, what about community outrage?
Though Chris Mercer was technically an adult, his very troubled long-term history of special needs and anti-social behavior should have made it mandatory for his parents to inform the authorities of his unsuitability for gun permits. Instead, his father seems to have taken the shortcut by remarriage and self-removal from his son’s life. The mother remains a more unusual enigma - a nurse who recognized that her son was abnormal, who nevertheless assisted him in surrounding himself with both the temptation and the means to destroy others as well as self-destruct
In this case, before blaming the gun lobby, the bureaucracy, the insufficient security on campus, the mental health professions - let’s be honest enough to accuse this mother of willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others, not to mention her own flesh and blood. She had it in her power to do something, to alert someone, to plead for outside interference during the time it took to buy fourteen guns. Instead, she ran around the neighborhood telling others to modify their behavior - without considering her own. Barring further information to the contrary, if Laurel Harper is not herself insane, she is at least as culpable as those who drive the getaway car from the crime scene and as deserving of punishment by law.
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