John R. Lott Jr.

John R. Lott Jr. is a contributor to RealClearInvestigations, focusing on voting and gun rights. His articles have appeared in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, USA Today, and Chicago Tribune. Lott is an economist who has held research and/or teaching positions at the University of Chicago, Yale University, Stanford, UCLA, Wharton, and Rice.


The 2023 Nashville Covenant School murders understandably received massive news coverage when they occurred. The fight over obtaining the murderer’s diary also received news attention. But when “nearly four dozen pages” of the murderer’s diary were finally released last week, the mainstream media completely ignored it. It turns out that behind the scenes, the FBI had fought hard against the diary’s release. Some Covenant School parents also opposed releasing the diary because it would force families to re-live the nightmare. The Tennessee Star’s parent company, Star News Digital Media, successfully filed two lawsuits to obtain the diary.

Five days after the release of the diary, with the exception of the New York Post, which is a national news outlet, the news coverage was limited to seven other conservative outlets such as The Daily Wire and Newsbusters.

The school murderer was transgender, and her diary reveals a suicidal left-winger who hated whites. The FBI expressed concern that the release of the diary from a transgender person could lead the public “to dismiss the attacker as mentally ill,” which would “further permeate the false narrative that the majority of attackers are mentally ill.” It worried that the diary could “potentially inflam[e] the public.”

The FBI worried that releasing the diary could have “unintended consequences for the segment of the population more vulnerable or open to conspiracy theories, which will undoubtedly abound.” Self-professed “experts,” the FBI fears, will “proffer their perspectives” in the press.

But there is a lot of important information in the diary. As is very typical of mass public shooters, the murderer was suicidal: “A terrible feeling to know I am nothing of the gender I was born of. I am the most unhappy boy alive. I wish to be dead.” She was also on the anti-anxiety drug Buspirone, whose potential side effects include “abnormal dreams, outbursts of anger, tremors, and physical weakness.”

The FBI worries that the diary will help create a link in people’s minds between mass murderers and mental illness, but suicidal people presumably have some mental health problems. Nor should the link be particularly surprising given that the Crime Prevention Research Center shows that 51% of mass public shooters in the last 25 years were actually seeing mental health care professionals before their attacks. That is 2.5 times the rate in the general public.

The FBI acknowledged that Americans want to “understand what led to such tragic events.” But the FBI argued these statements “seldom provide the answers” and the diaries and manifestos were “often misleading.” Yet the national media appears completely uninterested in why these murderers pick the targets they do and how their motivation to get media coverage is important in understanding how to stop these attacks.

The diary showed that the murderer had picked the Covenant School because it was a soft, unprotected target. Even if the national media ignored these comments, the Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake, who had access to the diary, said on the day of the attack, “There was another location that was mentioned, but because of a threat assessment by the suspect of too much security, they decided not to.” A couple of days later, Nashville Council member Robert Swope stated that the murderer “looked at” two other Nashville public schools before deciding “the security was too great to do what she wanted to do.”

While the FBI worries that many of “the offenders themselves do not fully grasp or comprehend” what they are writing, there is a logic to attacking facilities assumed to be gun-free zones, like the Covenant School, and trying to maximize the amount of media coverage that they receive. The FBI may not want to acknowledge this, and the media may not want to cover these points, but we see it consistently in these attacks.

The mass murderer wanted to get attention for the difficulties facing transgender individuals. She compared trans individuals to other groups in a way that indicates she clearly believed that transgender people didn’t have the same rights: “Disabled have rights, civil races have rights, LGBTQ have rights, gun owners have rights.” But referring to the life of transgender people, she declared: “… with no rights, anyone’s country is a s***** dictatorship.”

The news media and the FBI under the Biden administration are attempting to control the information available to Americans about a mentally troubled woman who identified as a man. The Biden administration is free to argue against linking transgender issues to mental illness or mass murder, but censoring the information is not the right approach.

This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.

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