Ever since a relative of Newtown, Conn., shooter Adam Lanza suggested that his mother, Nancy Lanza, was a "survivalist" who stockpiled food and weapons, "preppers" have gone online to express concern that they may become targets of unwelcome attention.
"She prepared for the worst," Nancy Lanza's sister-in-law, Marsha Lanza, told reporters last weekend. "Last time we visited her in person, we talked about prepping—are you ready for what could happen down the line, when the economy collapses?"
Preppers, also known as survivalists, have been popularized by the National Geographic reality show "Doomsday Preppers." They range from people who believe the world will end soon to those who want to be better prepared in case a natural disaster hits.
Some preppers pursue "shelter in place" strategies, turning their homes into fortresses and stockpiling food, while others plan to flee their homes when the time comes and survive in the wilderness. Many swap tips and stories on online message boards, where discussions about Nancy Lanza and the possible blowback on preppers from her apparent connection to the community sparked debate over the weekend.
Adam Lanza, 20, is believed to have shot his mother while she slept before driving to a nearby elementary school and killing six adults and 20 children. People who knew Nancy Lanza, 52, and her son have told reporters that she took Adam to shooting ranges and legally owned five guns. It's suspected that three of the guns recovered at the scene of the crime belonged to his mother. On Sunday, the New York Post ran a cover story that seemed to lay blame for the shooting at her feet, titled "Gun-obsessed mom taught murderer son to shoot: Trained to Kill."
One leading prepper, Daisy Luther, was outraged by the cover, and wrote on her blog the Organic Prepper that the media is using the shootings to "demonize" preppers and that the tactic may be a form of "psychological warfare."
"I don’t know why Adam Lanza went on a rampage and killed 26 people last week. But I do know that it wasn’t because his mother was a homeschooling prepper who stored up food and taught him to fire a gun at a paper target," she wrote.
An anonymous poster on the conspiracy website GodlikeProductions also worried that preppers may now become "targets" to blame for the tragedy. "If I was you guys I'd keep any prepper type activities close to the vest," the poster wrote.
Others commented that preppers need to be more careful in keeping their weapons locked away. "I may be out of line (and i know you guys will let me know if i am!) but i am thinking that if i had guns in the same house with a [mentally ill] son, i would have invested in a gun safe and kept the keys on me," wrote one prepper named Peter Simcox on SurvivalistBoards.com. "A good prepper is going to secure the arms almost as a first reponsibility."
Other preppers chimed in to say that it's still unknown how Adam Lanza accessed the weapons in the first place and that they might have been locked away. A friend of the family told NBC's the "Today" show that Nancy Lanza insisted her son use weapons responsibly and taught him to do so when they went to ranges for target practice together.
"Guns require a lot of respect, and she really tried to instill that responsibility within him, and he took to it," friend Russell Hanoman said. "He loved being careful with them. He made it a source of pride."