So it's happened again... another teenaged boy took a gun into a school and started shooting, leaving three dead and several more seriously wounded. In this case, it was in the small town of Chardon, Ohio, outside of Cleveland, but it could happen anywhere, any time.
T. J. Lane, 17 years old, didn't even attend Chardon High School, yet he was in the cafeteria at 7:30 in the morning, pulled a .22-caliber gun out a bag, and randomly fixed his sights at a group seated at the next table.
How does a boy who posted a photo on Facebook of himself with stuffed animals become a killer?
There is certainly a family history of violence. T.J. lives with his grandparents; his father was charged with attempted murder in 2002, had several arrests for violent crimes against women, and served nine months in prison. His parents had divorced in 2002 and Lane's mother had a restraining order against her ex. Both his parents were charged with domestic abuse against each other.
There are some early reports that Lane felt he was being bullied, but others say he had friends, and that he had warned them about his plans two days before the shooting. He had also written ominous angry words on Facebook some weeks earlier, as reported in the New York Post: "He was better than the rest, all those ones he detests, within their castles, so vain. Selfish and Conceited... Now! Feel death... Wriggle and writhe. Feel smaller beneath my might... Die, all of you."
And Chardon is a town that's comfortable with guns. As one girl told CBS News, "We're all hunters..."
Who's to know what feelings led to this explosion of rage? Teenage boys are vulnerable to feelings of overwhelming anxiety and depression, feelings of helplessness that can trigger hormonal spikes in testosterone and adrenaline at the same time, leading to an irrational, angry state of mind. Was he living on the white flour/white sugar Standard American Diet that can lead to an unbalanced mind? Did drugs, alcohol, nutritional deficiences, or lack of sleep produce his anti-social behavior?
I'm sure in the days to come T.J.'s motives will undergo intense scrutiny. Grief counselors will help students who experienced this deadly encounter with violence. Parents and siblings of the dead and wounded students will mourn. Constant coverage in the media will ensure that everyone is aware of the lack of safety and security in our everyday lives.
The stress of modern-day life can be overwhelming for anyone, but especially for a high school student in the throes of hormonal chaos. How about teaching methods that help to reduce stress, such as a basic meditation practice, instead of simply running drills on how to hide from a shooter? How about teaching the types of skills that help to deal with the anxiety-producing realities of their lives?
Isn't it time to shift our priorities away from the constant drumbeat of violence to the softer sounds of healing and nurturance? And stop putting guns into the hands of any child who wants one.