LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The mother of the man behind the mass killing in Oregon knew of her son’s fascination with guns and appears to have encouraged it, according to online postings over a decade.
The New York Times said Laurel Harper, a nurse, stockpiled weapons in the apartment she shared with her son and wrote in an online message that both had struggled with Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.
According to the Times, she indicated in an online forum that her son had a wide knowledge of firearms and that she kept loaded guns in her home, including a Glock handgun and two semi-automatic rifles.
“No one will be ‘dropping’ by my house uninvited without acknowledgement,” she wrote, according to the Times.
She also often talked about going to the gun range with her son, neighbours say.
Officials have said they recovered 14 firearms belonging to Chris Harper, including six that were found at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, scene of last week’s carnage that left nine people dead.
Laurel Harper’s posts were found on Yahoo Answers, a site where she spent hours over the last 10 years answering mainly medical questions, the Times said.
She also spoke with colleagues about her struggle to raise a son on her own and about placing him in a psychiatric hospital in California, before the pair moved to Oregon in 2013.
“She said that ‘my son is a real big problem of mine’,” Alexis Jefferson, who worked with Harper at a care centre around 2010, told the Times.
“She said: ‘He has some psychological problems. Sometimes he takes his medication, sometimes he doesn’t. And that’s where the big problem is, when he doesn’t take his medication.”
But in advice she dispensed online to parents facing similar problems, she also said her son had learned to cope with his condition and expressed confidence that he could lead a successful life.
“I was in your shoes and now my son’s in college,” the Times quoted her as saying in one posting.
“He’s no babbling idiot nor is his life worthless.”
Mercer’s profile eerily resembles that of Adam Lanza, who shot 20 schoolchildren and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012 before taking his own life.
Lanza had killed his mother, with whom he lived, before setting off on his rampage.
Lanza was diagnosed with Asperger’s, his mother kept guns in the house and he also struggled with psychological issues.
The shooting at Umpqua has revived the debate on gun control in the United States and prompted an angry reaction by President Barack Obama who urged lawmakers to revisit the issue.
Obama on Friday is to travel to Roseburg to meet with relatives of the victims.
His visit, however, is not being greeted warmly by some community leaders and a “Stay out of Roseburg” Facebook page had drawn more than 1,100 likes by midday Tuesday.
David Jaques, publisher of the conservative newspaper the Roseburg Beacon, told Fox News that Obama was not welcome, accusing the President of seeking to politicise the tragedy.
“We’ve talked to dozens upon dozens of citizens, some family members of the victims, our elected officials,” Jaques said.
“Our county commissioners, along with (the) sheriff who is very popular and our chief of police all came to a consensus language about him not being welcome here to grandstand for political purposes.”
However, the city of Roseburg in a statement lashed out at such comments saying they did not represent the community as a whole.
“We wish to be clear that mayor Larry Rich, city council president Tom Ryan and the Roseburg city council welcome the President to Roseburg and will extend him every courtesy,” the statement said.