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Today is my daughter’s 14th birthday. I love my kid. And I do my best to give her a great life, a happy childhood, and a reasonable shot at making something of herself. And as you can imagine with the news coming out of Ohio, there are a lot of things going through my mind right now – a number of which I’d like to never have to think about. But given that I’m the one ’round TTAG way that covers the “how I feel about things” beat, I feel duty-bound to share this with the class . . .

I was probably around ten or twelve or so before murder struck close to home. It was an Episcopal priest we knew – a great guy by the name of Father Garrett. He’d been one of the counselors at a church camp I went to as a kid. Later, we found out that he’d been on the road and encountered three teens/young adults at a diner. This would have been around the tail end of the hippie/flower power era. They were hungry. He fed them. They needed a ride. He gave them one. They wanted his life. They took it. It was brutal. Sudden. And left me with a hole in my heart that took some time for me to not feel.

It’s sad anytime someone dies young, I suppose. A life unfulfilled, and all that. But you really can’t know just how profound grief can be, until you filter that emotion through the prism of parenthood. I thank God every day, that my kid has never experienced any kind of violence or death, up close and personal, and that she is healthy and happy. But I can tell you that, every time I hear about an incident like what transpired yesterday in Ohio, it makes me realize that the best I can do is to try and shift the odds in our favor, but that there is absolutely, positively no way on Heaven or Earth for me to keep my baby girl 100% safe.

Every time something like this happens, the news media typically rattles their gun control sabres, wrings their hands in a pious manner, and demands that the government Do Somthing! to stop all this gun violence. But what could they do? You see, even in countries where guns are banned, there is still gun violence. Lots of it. The only way a gun ban might even stand a chance of working, is if every gun on the planet were rounded up and melted, and nobody – civilians, police, or military – ever had access to a gun again. Good luck with that plan. And virtually any gun law you can conceive triggers that nasty little “Law of Unintended Consequences” that steps on our right to be able to defend ourselves against any- and everybody who would do us harm.

But you say to yourself, “there ought to be some way to head the crazies off at the pass, before they kill!” Yep. You’d think so, wouldn’t you. But while hindsight is just about always 20-20, foresight is bloody well myopic. It’s virtually impossible to separate some kid who’s one slight away from going all Charles Whittman on his classmates, and some disaffected yoot who makes the mistake of doing his Rebel Without a Clue thang, writ large, on Facebook, and ends up in a psych ward.

Let’s look at a few context clues from the early media reports and see what we can divine from the media tea leaves. We know the kid is a Sophomore in High School. We also know he’s 17 years old. Huh? Seventeen? Shouldn’t he be a senior? His attorney claims that the kid is an excellent student, albeit shy and withdrawn, and that this came as a complete surprise to his family. Uh huh. Wait a tick, there. Let’s read between the lines of the barrister’s presser:

Bob Farinacci, speaking on behalf of the suspect’s family, said that the boy, was “Very, very scared and extremely remorseful…He is a very confused young man right now.” The lawyer added, “He’s very confused. He is very upset. He’s very distraught. … This is a very scary circumstance that I don’t think he could have possibly even foreseen himself in the middle of.”

Nice one, Bob. Let’s try to humanize the little monster – get him out front and try to drum up some sympathy for him, while the parents are busy grieving and burying their dead. Body count stands at two, right now, with three other victims in the hospital. But while the attorney tries his best to spin this tragedy in a positive light for his client and the family, CNN has uncovered a Facebook post that, in retrospect anyway, paints a much darker picture:

With little to go on, many turned to cryptic Facebook postings by the alleged shooter for a glimpse into Lane’s mindset — especially a long, dark poetic rant from December 30.

The post refers to “a quaint lonely town, (where there) sits a man with a frown (who) longed for only one thing, the world to bow at his feet.”

“He was better than the rest, all those ones he detests, within their castles, so vain,” he wrote.

Lane then wrote about going through “the castle … like an ominous breeze through the trees,” past guards — all leading up to the post’s dramatic conclusion.

“Feel death, not just mocking you. Not just stalking you but inside of you,” he writes. “Wriggle and writhe. Feel smaller beneath my might. Seizure in the Pestilence that is my scythe.”

He concluded the post with: “Die, all of you.”

Looking at the post and knowing what we know now, it’s easy to say “Why didn’t anybody see that this kid was a masacre waiting to happen? Why didn’t somebody get him help? Don’t his parents monitor his FB page? Shouldn’t his friends narc’d him out to his teachers?” Okay, in retrospect, that seems like it might even make sense. But I know a bunch of kids in the 13-to-18 demo that say things every bit as dark as that, and they have absolutely NO intention, motivation, or desire to shoot up the joint. And if you had some Big Brother monitoring FB for that kind of thing,  (think: “Carnivore,” “ECHELON,” and “NarusInsight,” but tuned to words like “die,” “kill,” “death,” “pestilence,” etc.), kids would simply go back to writing in their journals – no ePaper trail there.

Of course, if parents were a little more plugged into their kids lives, I suspect the kids would be less screwed up in general. It might well be that, even someone who’s genetically more susceptible to the siren song of suicidal violence or the mantra of mass murder would be less likely to give in, if their parents were really close to them. And, of course, if you pay attention to your kids, you’ll likely see problems coming and be better prepared to head them off, before a kid’s depression turns deadly.

So we know that government is not the answer. And as RF points out, our schools are essentially all target-rich environments, given the taste for “gun-free zone” legislation around the country. And common-sense tells us that the happier kids are, the less likely they are to shoot up the joint. (And just to be clear, in this context “happy” does NOT mean “give them everything they want.” It means “get close to your kids and be an active part of their lives.”) Great. But what about all the other parents and kids – you know, the clueless ones who have a crappy home life, with friends that don’t do anything about the warning signs. Yeah. THOSE families.

Yep. THAT’S what bothers me, and keeps me up at night, every time something like the Chardon, Ohio thing happens. As Joe Bob Briggs (the Drive-In Movie Theatre critic of Grapevine, Texas) says, “Without eternal vigilance, it could happen here.” And that is the problem. It CAN happen here – or anywhere. And there’s damn little you can do, as a parent, to keep it from happening to your child.

Prayer helps. At least it does for me. (Your results may vary. But I recommend it.) Teaching your kid to live in Condition Yellow is a modern-day necessity. (You’ll never convince me that things were like this when I was a kid. I don’t remember EVER hearing about some kid bringing a gun to school and shooting up the place. When I was in school, if a boy brought a rifle to school, it was for Show-n-Tell.) I hate that we live in a world where my young daughter has to be alert and aware of things like that at all times. But I don’t know what else to tell her that will help keep her safe.

So, life goes on. At least it does for those of us who didn’t get shot yesterday, by some kid who’s family should have paid more attention beforehand. And after the media frenzy dies down and cooler heads prevail, we’ll all lull ourselves back into a false sense of security, at least until the next time something like this happens. And then the cycle will start all over again.

Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

Very sad.

 

27 Responses to Every Parent’s Nightmare

  1. I wonder how the demonization will play out. He was bullied and only targeted his bullies. With the current anti-bullying movement in play this may not be so one sided media reporting like Columbine or Vtech.

  2. Yesterday’s events prompted me to have yet another talk with my wife and daughter about being in condition yellow, knowing where your exits are, what to do if you hear gunshots, or any unreasonable commotion. I agree, it’s very sad, and hard to understand why this happens. Like you, this kind of violence didn’t happen in school when I was a student oh those many years ago.

  3. Not knowing the circumstances yet, and considering we probably never will fully, it isn’t fair yet to put this one on the parents. Many times they aren’t paying attention, the home life is terrible, etc. But sometimes, some people are just explosive, troubled individuals no matter what life hands them, good or bad.

    “You see, even in countries where guns are banned, there is still gun violence.”

    You see, even in homes where children are loved and looked after, a child may not always turn out right.

    Blaming guns isn’t the answer, turning to Big Brother isn’t the answer, but blaming those close to the person isn’t always the answer either. Sometimes it takes a village, sometimes all it takes is a deranged individual.

    • …it isn’t fair yet to put this one on the parents.

      Yes, it is. Like millions of other children, I was raised in a home with guns. I was taught to use and respect them, and eventually trusted with largely unrestricted access to them.

      I was also “bullied” as most school children are to one degree or other. However, I knew right from wrong. I knew how to handle my emotions and that my actions would have consequences should I act on them in such a fashion. Hence, I didn’t show up for school one day armed to the teeth and mow down everyone who had ever said a cross word to me. I thought about it, sure, like most probably do.

      I did settle more than a few of those conflicts with my fists, but this was back when doing so wouldn’t get you sent off to the camps for reeducation, and “lockdown” was a term reserved for prisons.

      All of that is due to one simple truth: My parents did their effing jobs, like the vast majority who do as well. In my experience this kind of nonsense is caused by a complete lack of morals and responsibility being installed in a child, be it due to new-age nonsense parenting, or a lack of any at all.

  4. I know it is early to look at some of the facts surrounding this particular school shooting. At this moment, my prayers are for all involved to come closer to God through what has happened.
    I lived in Ken Caryl at the time of the Columbine shooting. It touched my friends and neighbors directly. These events all seem to have some similarities and while some of the parallels are seemingly unavoidable, some perhaps are avoidable.
    First, to me it is a no-brainer to allow teachers to be armed. The teacher described in this piece had an armored vest, but no gun? Second, the police are said to have arrived in 45 seconds only to stand outside for how long?
    At Columbine, the first officers were ordered not to enter the school as they heard gunfire continue inside. I know two of those officers regret following orders to this day. Curiously, in this piece they show someone being apprehended by a single officer. Perhaps a little more “One riot, one Ranger” thinking and little less SWAT Team mentality is called for in police procedure.

  5. These killers are seeking fame. They seek the highest body count in the quickest time as if its some sort of video game.The bullying and other excuses are a rationale imposed by the media to elicit sympathy and to avoid the truth that EVIL exists and walks among us.

    The only defense is armed teachers and parents. If you can stop the killing quickly, you can save many lives (4.7/minute). Predicting who will be a killer is not possible.

    Every teacher and student should watch this video to see how to handle these situations: http://tinyurl.com/ACT911

  6. Thankfully since we homeschool our children we don’t have to worry about school shootings. That said there are always plenty of other large group gatherings where crazies can strike (IE church services, shopping malls, etc.). So I am constantly reminding my wife and daughter about situational awareness. And if some distraction happens that causes a crowd to gather, I tell them to head the other direction.
    What I couldn’t believe based on other articles that I read, was that the school’s tactics involved telling the kids to hide in class rooms and get under your desks? I’m sorry, this is not an earthquake drill, if you’re not close enough to disable the shooter or don’t have the means, then leave the AO.

  7. Brad,
    I agree with you 100%. My kids have made it through the teen years (we go to the repeat cycle with the grandkids in the way-too-near future). And I attribute it to:
    1) Prayer -earnest and often – and the grace of God
    2) My wife and I being fully active in their lives, and repeating daily the three most precious words a child can hear – “I love you.”
    We did Scouts with them, took them to church, went to their school plays/recitals, took them camping, and knew who their friends were. There were plenty of rocky days/weeks/months/years. But by the grace of God we made it through.

    We cannot protect our children, families, or even ourselves 100% from all evil. But God can. We can prepare ourselves to do our part (hence the CHLs) but it turns out to be all in His hands anyway.

  8. Another Gun Free Zone “success” story. One thing that parents need to start teaching NOW is that their kids should NOT accept this kind of incident as passive victims. Teach your kids to fight back if they are close to the shooter – throw a bookbag at him, throw a chair at him, throw your lunch tray at him. If everyone in range did that, then swarmed the shooter and gouged his eyes and beat his head into the floor, there would be fewer kids shot. That’s what happened years ago in a small Oregon school – some members of the wrestling team jumped the shooter and beat him senseless. We have GOT to stop waiting passively for the authorities to save us. Think Flight 93 – they died, but they weren’t used by the Islamic terrorists to kill others. If nothing else, go down fighting – “do not go gently into that good night; rage, rage against the dying of the light”.

  9. The youth in question was a former student at the school, and currently going to class at Lakeside Academy. The Academy is for troubled youth, generally with behavior issues or on probation.

    I think he committed this crime with premeditation and his motive was most likely having been bullied or oucast in the past. A damn shame.

  10. There is also a time and a place for gun control. We can’t all be aware of everything our kids do, but we can certainly make it a lot harder for them to get a gun. We won’t usually make the world safer by melting down random guns. But a little extra effort to keep your gun away from teenagers would pay dividends.

    • “But a little extra effort to teach your children about guns and gun safety would pay dividends.”

      There, fixed it for ya.

  11. Some corrections and updates are seeping out about the shooting: First, he was a junior, not a sophomore. Second, he lived with his grandparents. I’ve learned that most grandparents are not very computer literate, so the Facebook postings likely slipped by them.

    The media reported this morning that a second student was declared brain dead and has now “passed.”

    Ohio has applied the death penalty to just 12 criminals in the past 36 years. I’d suggest trying the young man as an adult and, once convicted, make him the 13th.

  12. One thing we also need to keep in mind, is the “this can’t be real/happening” factor is huge in these situations. A while back, I wrote about being up close and personal to a 70MPH collision on I-20. That “Peckinpah Effect,” where everything slows down is real – but so is the bit where part of your brain processes what’s happening, but the ‘rational’ part of your noggin is stating “this can’t be happening.” THAT’S the part that kills you – the part that gives you that silly/stupid “deer in the headlights” look. Our rational brain tells us “that can’t be a Poltergeist – it must be a guy wearing a sheet,” or “that’s an optical illusion…I can’t really be seeing a dog driving a car.” 99% of the time, your rational brain is right. But that 1% when it’s wrong, it’s often DEAD wrong.

    Just like the shooting in Europe, where the killer was dressed as a cop, I’m sure the kids were mostly thinking “this isn’t for real.” In fact, I’d wager it’s the last thing that three of them had going through their minds, right before the little bastard shot them.

  13. I read an anti-gun leader’s blog say the most important thing now is how and where he got the gun. Really? That’s the most important thing? Not the condition of the victims. Not finding out whether the shooter’s psychological or other problems could have been identified and helped. Nope. Use the tragedy to push for more useless gun laws.

  14. homas “T.J.” Lane, who is expected to be arraigned Tuesday for the rampage at Chardon High School, came from a violent family. His father was arrested numerous times for abusing women, including Lane’s mother, according to court records cited by The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

    Students say that Lane was shy and targeted by bullies. Although the shooting took place at 7:30 a.m. in the Chardon High cafeteria, Lane was enrolled at Lake Academy Alternative School, an institution for “at risk” youths, according to CNN.

    His father, Thomas Lane Jr., has a long rap sheet, according to TV station WEWS. In 2002, he was charged with attempted murder, assault and kidnapping, among other charges. The murder charge was dismissed and the kidnapping count reduced later. Under a plea deal he was sentenced to four years in prison.

    The Plain Dealer reported that Lane was busted for holding a woman’s head under water and hitting her head against a wall, though she later asked for authorities to let him out early from prison.

  15. In a loosely related note, I just heard on CBS news that “a number of firearms were found in an FBI search of relative’s homes.”

    Nice. Your nephew shoots a bunch of people and next thing the FBI is at your house taking your guns away. I hope CBS got this wrong. What’s the real story here?

  16. I sort of seen the opposite where some Goth kid had a smear campaign by the snobs saying that he was going to shoot everyone at oldest Daugther’s High School. The day came and most of the kids refused to go to school, but Oldest Daughter knew the Goth kid fairly welland figured it was all BS; so she went to school anyway. On the way to school the police searched the Goth kid and found nothing, so they sent him on towards school. Nothing happened that day or any other day with the Goth kid. End of anti-climatic story.

  17. This was obviously a troubled kid, and if he was going to a school for “at risk” youth, one would hope he was receiving some sort mental health treatment or monitoring. But still, this happened. One thing about mental illness, especially schizophrenia, is that it often doesn’t really start to manifest until late adolescence. Coming from a violent home can’t have helped. This may or may not have been predictable or preventable, but giving kids access to good mental health care is money well spent. I do think this kid was probably more crazy than evil – a truly evil person would try (and quite likely succeed) to get away with murder. Seems like this kid just had a psychotic break. I’m sure his attorneys will go for an insanity defense. For every tragedy like this that happens (and let’s be realistic, we should worry far more about our teenagers riding in cars than being shot at school), I wonder how many are prevented because a kid got the help he needed before things got to the breaking point.

  18. I feel sorry for you guys who have kids in US schools. You really do have to worry. And you can blame yourselves too. You are the ones who perpetuate the lie that guns are the answer. The unintentional result of all your preparing and preaching about guns is that more and more of them flow into the criminal world, more and more of them get into the hands of disturbed teens.

    Keep it up. You’re doing a fine job. Let me ask you this. If defensive guns are so much the answer, when’s it gonna turn around? I’m not talking about some insignificant drop in violent crime, I’m talking about a vast improvement so obvious that even your critics will agree. It would be the manifestation of your adage, an armed society is a safe society. Where is it?

  19. Is there a safe unarmed society? Is there a safe society at all? People love to bring up the violence in America versus other countries. Lets hypothetically manifest the anti-gun lobby’s true desire and say all guns are banned in the United States. Then lets say that over the years (after a bunch of unarmed law abiding citizens are gunned down by the criminal element) after confiscations and the complete depletion of the 2nd and 4th amendments, that there are zero guns from inside the US. First, good luck preventing people from illegally manufacturing them. Second, good luck preventing them from coming in (ask gun restricting countries like the UK how that’s working for them) especially with borders like ours. Hell, that just creates a new violent enterprise of competitors (see: drug war). Third, does anyone really think not having firearms is going to change the criminal mind and their complete lack of regard for another’s life? No. It won’t stop. It won’t stop violence, it would only give violent people the advantage.

  20. Is it just me, or is there an increase in shootings, each time a “…liberal commie-crat anti-gunner…” gets elected? On the news there was a story about a person or person’s unknown shooting up the w/house in D.C. To my knowledge no one has been caught, let alone arrested and convicted.
    Flash back to Wild Bill Clintoon. Man w/ak-47, allegedly shoots at w/house. Man is subdued by the w/house detail uniformed division. Even now to the best of my knowledge, no trial, no release of shooters name etc. But we had a big rash of shootings, by guess who, students. This is just more than coincidence. I could lay out a whole scenario, but I will let you play connect the dots. Just remember it is always young white males that do this. In nice quiet suburban towns of big cities. It is all just to damn coincidental for me.

    • The guy who shot up the White House while Obama was in residence was caught and I am pretty sure he recently pled guilty. He had mental health issues. And he was not white. The D.C. snipers were not white either. But the guy in the bell tower in Texas was. Sudden gun violence is not a race issue. Nor is it a political issue. Do you really think that Klebold and Harris thought for a moment about who was president when they went on their rampage? I think not.

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