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The Psychology of a School Shooting: TJ Lane in Chardon, Ohio

Although rare, school shootings like the one in Chardon, Ohio capture the horror imagination of every parent and teenager. And many people’s immediate reaction is, “Why would someone do that?”

The alleged shooter, TJ Lane, will now be psychoanalyzed from afar in the media, with various experts throwing in their two cents about his motivations and explaining his actions. Paula Mooney has provided initial fodder, by giving us TJ Lane’s Facebook page. “Experts” will try and piece together a portrait of TJ Lane with these kinds of bits and pieces of random, self-selected personal information.

I’ll try and refrain from any psychological analysis of TJ Lane, since as a professional, I’ve never met him or interviewed him. But I do want to discuss the school shooting in a broader context of whether there are any lessons here we can learn.

19 Comments to
The Psychology of a School Shooting: TJ Lane in Chardon, Ohio

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  1. It’s the drugs. Stop drugging our children and they’ll stop shooting up their schools.

    • There’s no scientific evidence of a connection between prescription drugs and violence.

      There is, however, data supporting a connection between substance abuse (illegal drugs) or alcohol abuse and violence.

      I’m not aware of anything suggesting that school shooters are on any kind of illegal drugs or alcohol. It’s also not clear from what we know about previous shootings that any of them were on prescription drugs either.

      • …and yet known side effects include SEVERE mood swings, agitation, depression, anxiety, paranoia, suicidal tendencies etc, etc
        There isn’t ‘evidence’ because it isn’t profitable. Imagine the flak and legal implications the pharmaceutical industry and FDA would suffer by admitting the approval of drugs whose long list of side effects must now include MURDER.

      • Go to google and put in prescription drugs and school shootings. All of these shooters were on some sort of anti-depressant. All. Who will pay for the study that you are asking for? Big Pharma? Please.

      • I have no doubt that he was either on or just got off the anti-depressed pills. If you do the research, every child who’s done this kind of creme were either on or had just gotten off the psychoactive drug.

      • Like others have said. What psychotropic drug was he on? Anyone who is ignorant enough to say these have no factor in these issues is whistling past the graveyard so to speak or in bed with Big Pharma. PERIOD!

      • Love that you said “although rare” because rare they are and they really aren’t any explanations. There is only understanding.

    • Agreed! Like I said before. You’re either a fool or a sellout to Big Pharma to think these drugs are not a factor!

  2. I guess my question, based on bitter experience, is how is one to know if a threat to harm is just frustration or the straw that broke the camel’s back?
    At least in a school setting there are resources and people available, once the adults and children are educated properly. (And just how you you do that with children any how?)
    Out in the real world, a lot of people don’t want to get ‘involved’ or the right kind of resources aren’t available in time.

    • Of course, there’s no easy answer to that question… So unfortunately, it’s wisest to report every potential threat.

      It’s just not something kids can joke about any more. If your friend says they’re gonna bring a gun to school, tell someone — a teacher, counselor, secretary or principal.

      Even if it turns out not to be a real threat, there’s little harm done.

      It may not put a complete end to the violence, but it would be a start.

  3. A major common denominator in school shootings is the easy availability of guns in the United States.

    • Unfortunately, the barn door to the gun issue was opened 240+ years ago and can’t be closed in our lifetimes. Guns are an ingrained part of our history and culture and there’s simply no way you can remove them from our society in any way that would make a dent in the amount of guns already out there.

      • I am always uneasy when people quickly jump to blame an inanimate object for a sentient being’s behavior. We are all sentient, aren’t we? To blame the presence of guns for the chosen acts of a human being reduces us all to mindless automatons, worse off than animals who at least are guided by instinct. Should we rubber-room our existence? Are we incapable of judgment? Do we need to be controlled? And who, pray tell, will do the controlling? This is a tragic, senseless act commited by a tragically troubled individual. Let’s not paint with such a broad brush, and judge all humanity (by logical extension) as incapable of making appropriate, life-affirming decisions in the presence of potentially dangerous objects. Even if we find those particular objects frightening or distasteful. It is incredibly inaccurate, and quite dangerous in both the short- and long-run.

      • Not to mention, the farther back you go in US history, the *more* kids had access to guns, not less.Why no school shootings in the one-room schoolhouses?

      • Agreed – we can’t ignore the huge societal changes in how children are raised and how parents teach their children emotional maturity and responsibility over time.

        Child and teen violence is not new, however. Ready and timely access to the information that a child or teen committed a crime somewhere in the country is.

  4. Megalodon is correct in many ways. So is Jev2DaMaximum, although, that isn’t always even in the case of people who take the same medications. Nonetheless medication can put a person in those thoughts…sadly enough, but true.

    On Megalodon’s comment…people can be educated about reasoning behind this, but just like mental illness, can come in a variety of reasons, there is nothing someone can do or say most times that one can point out on a bulletin list of signs and get active to stop a harmful threat. Or one people can recognize to easily. Also with people not wanting to get involved, it is funny how its always after the fact people say they wished they talked to the kid more, if at all, to find out anything going on in the persons life. Something very small can “break the camels back” if a lot of little things happened over a period of time, building up. As well as say, just being apathetic about life. And so on….could be anything. Anything at all.

  5. I can’t believe people are surprised by this…he’s been posting “warnings” on his Facebook page for MONTHS, why didn’t one of his “friends” (he had 153 of them on there) call the cops???

    I would have…

  6. It’s like the person who says he might as well kill him/herself…would you wait for it to happen, or would you get help for him/her??

  7. I live 15 minutes from where this horrible event happened. One of the best quotes came from a minister when he was asked what he would say at a candle light ceremony, how he would explain this.His answer was there IS no explanation for something like this. Parents, siblings, relatives and friends can’t make any more sense of this than he could.I liked this response: no platitudes, no explaining ANY of the pain away, instead facing it head on for everyone.I saw a town literally crippled by this. I also watched them come together to handle this nightmare.



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