3rd Child Dead in Ohio

Tom Matlack looks at the shootings at Chardon High School through the lens of manhood, war, guns, and video games.

School Superintendent Joe Gergant said school will reopen for classes on Friday. Until then, school facilities will be open for counseling on Wednesday and for parents and students to return together on Thursday.

“I want to assure parents our facilities, and most important our students, that you will be safe when you’re re-entering our program,” Gergant said. “We’re not just any old place. Chardon, this is everyplace. As you’ve seen in the past this can happen anywhere.”

On Monday, panicked students screamed and ran through the halls after gunfire broke out at the start of the school day at 1,100-student Chardon High, about 30 miles from Cleveland. Teachers locked down their classrooms as they had been trained to do during drills, and students took cover as they waited for the all-clear.

USA Today


Thomas “T.J.” Lane began shooting at Chardon High School on Monday morning. The USA Today is reporting that a 3rd student is now dead.

I know only what I have read in the papers and on the web. I know nothing of what happened to make this young man do what he did with such tragic consequence. I have no answers. The folks in the community have no answers. Only devastation.

But it brings to mind questions.

The Superintendent says that such a horrific tragedy could happen “anywhere.” And I believe that is true.

I have two high school students, a sophomore and a senior.  My sophomore spent his February break touring West Point because he has decided that the military is his calling. As the son of Quaker pacifists that is not an easy message to hear from my boy, but I was also brought up to believe that we each have our own path and even a parent can only influence his son so much before allowing him to make his own choices in life.

The thing I wonder, though, as it pertains to this tragedy and others like it, is the role that guns, video games and a romanticized view of our military warriors has on how our boys think of themselves in crossing that threshold into manhood.

I have a seven year-old son, too, who is obsessed with relatively mild (in the scheme of things) Star Wars video games in which the object is to fight and kill the dark side enemies. I’ve watched my older nephews play hour after hour of Call of Duty. It would be totally hypocritical of me not to add that I have been involved from a business perspective in MMO games (I own two sites which review these games) so if I am pointing any fingers the finger is directed at myself as much as anyone.

I wonder if these imaginary games instill violences and guns as part of what it means to be a man, with killing the main objective.

Then we come to the real wars which have dominated the last decade of our national history. Never before have we fought such long wars, with such murky objectives, at so high a human cost, with so little public attention. It’s almost as if we all have gotten so tired of talking about men and women coming back in body bags or in fractured pieces that we just stopped talking about it in a vain attempt to pretend like it isn’t happening. Those wars, too, became more video game than traditional ground offensives since the enemy is not across the trench or the front but hidden amongst the innocents requiring the use of drones and drone pilots playing life and death games that look from the outside remarkably like the games my nephews are playing.

All of which brings me back to Ohio and three dead students and one horribly disturbed shooter. And no answers. Only questions.

Are our boys growing up in a world where we are teaching them not by word but by action that manhood is about winning the vast video game of life, including guns and bad guys and shooting? Do we spend enough time teaching them about love and kindness and compassion as the mark of a what it means to be a man? Do we show them enough pictures of the real consequences of war, not heroic but just god awful painful and tragic beyond words? Do we ask our returning veterans to come into our high school gymnasiums to speak openly about what PTSD is or the ravaging affects of brain injury caused by being too close to roadside bombs on a repeated basis?

My friendship with NYTimes photojournalist Michael Kamber has been an honor and constant reminder of the horror of war, the bravery of men put in situations not of their own making which require them to fight one another to the death, and the fact that violence is never a good or ideal kind of manhood. The pain in Michael’s words when he describes watching men in his embed unit being blown to bits (“Shooting the Truth”) or when his best friend Tim Hetherington was lost in Lybia (“Remembering Tim”) keep me honest, and remind me how much I admire Michael for putting himself in harms way to try to show the world that violence is not the answer to anything, especially manhood.

But we keep playing our games and trying to block out the true impact of our foreign policy, not only abroad but right here at home with our boys who don’t listen much but sure do pay close attention to what do.

I have no idea if any of this played into the death of three students at Chardon High School.

But I sure do wonder.

And with the nation, I cry at what would cause one of our boys to do such a thing.

Shooting the Truth (Whoomph) from GoodMenProject on Vimeo.



Also on Good Men Project: How Can We Stop the Rampage Killings?

About Tom Matlack

Thomas Matlack is a venture capitalist.


  1. John Sctoll says:

    @Richard: I am sure there is something to that. Children today are not taught how to handle anything and imho, they are taught they are entitled to everything. Combine that with the complete lack of respect for ALL LIFE, it is a dangerous combination.

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    John. My guess is as good as anybody’s, I suppose. How about the cultural meme that one’s emotional state is hugely important, overshadowing other issues such as obligations to do or not do? We have counselors, we have drugs for being too much or too little, we have endless talk about our emotional viscera. If a kid feels really bad, perhaps he’s been taught that’s a sky-shaking situation–to which too little attention is being paid.
    Maybe this is where the much-maligned “man up” idea ought to be proposed. “Yeah, you’re bummed. You’ll get over it. Now get to doing something useful.” And, as I recall, we got over it without shooting anybody.
    Today, such a view would be considered by a considerable number as desecrating the Sacred Host of Feeeeelings, and thus inadmissable.
    Might be something to this. Maybe not.

  3. John Sctoll says:

    I am 51 years old, and I don’t remember a single mass shooting by a kid when I was growing up. Were kids bullied back then, you bet they were. But you know what else, Good or Bad, children and in fact everyone had more respect for human life. To many , taking a life was the ultimate evil. Not anymore. Is it the fault of video games, maybe, is it the fault of TV, maybe, is it the fault of movies, maybe OR is it the fault of laws that reduce what was once thought of as human life to “just a clump of cells”.

  4. PursuitAce says:

    This kid didn’t think he was better than anyone else. That was his own rationalization of a situation and a culture that made him feel like he had no value. His final response and payback was to zeroize the value of everyone else by killing them. How do we get adults to feel like they have the time and ability to find these kids and pull them back from the brink? I don’t know.

    • Yeah, you’re right about the rationalization. And it’s about the “haves” and “have nots”…with the have nots feeling less valued. Coming from a broken home probably makes it worse and can partially explain that killer’s behavior.

      HIghschool and college are tough times on students…there’s a lot of emphasis on other things besides your studies. Take for instance, that college that ranks students’ looks as number 1 and points out ugly student bodies. Fitting in and being cool are highly prized commodities, and part of this culture is about having the latest threads. I remember going to elementary school in an area that was more multicultural and not rich, I felt I fitted in perfectly…but then my family relocated to another city and the students there didn’t wear second hand clothes, and I was either one or one of two Asians out of majority of whites students in my classes. It felt harder to make friends.

      One time I wore this two piece shirt and shorts of the same fabric to school, and I had someone ask me if they were pajamas (my mom had sewed them) — I never wore that again. There was also this boy who I didn’t know, had called me “chink”. Other than those small incidents, for the most part I had friends and never was bullied through my school years; yet I was always aware of my socio-economic status compared to other students. Students then were much more respectful than kids today and knew between right and wrong, I feel.

      • I also think the entitlement of some rich parents rub off on their children, who will likely treat peers with the same entitlement. “A new study suggests that being wealthy primes people to act like jerks. … more likely to cut off drivers of lower status vehicles”. This entitlement carries over through their work life too…they’re pretty consistent. I’ve worked with quite a number of them — they’re loudmouthed and must get their way ALL the time and act above everyone else, except to the ones they’re brown-nosing to.

        • If the entitled people don’t get their way in the workplace, they scream at you and have the balls to run to your boss and call you out as not being a “team player”. They feel their ideas and everything they say is much more important than yours, therefore believing they are ALWAYS right. They create unnecessary havoc on others and lie. They don’t see you as a workplace equal or friend…only if they can get something in return from being associated with you, such as higher status, recognition and getting ahead. They are fake through and through. They see everything as a COMPETITION…win at all costs. The ironic thing is that they’re not even in sales.

          • My one aunt works two jobs, so her 12 year old daughter can wear the latest brand name clothes and be cool — fit in with the rest of her 6th grade class; she’s got the latest tech toys too. I don’t know what 12-year old needs an $80 Bench hoodie for, or $100.00 pair of sneakers and Guess clothes etc. Being a student is expensive these days…so is being “cool”.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    Do you have any info on the weapon used? Automatic weapons are illegal in the US, except for some exceptionally restricted licensees. The latter folks have never had a gun crime traced to them.
    Interesting point. No info on the weapon used.
    Anybody know?

  6. Although this 17 year old didn’t die, there seems to be a commonality among killers: they see themselves as martyrs and above others. He who holds a gun, holds power over others — this is what they must feel when they shoot. I know these do not justify his behavior…but this kid grew up in a broken home; there were charges against his parents and his father had served time in prison — there was also restraining order in place against the father.

    A post from this guy’s Facebook had read:
    “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”

  7. Though the causes of these sad violent eruptions are complex, the nature and severity of the outcomes is directly linked to the use of automatic weapons. Distraught, confused, and erratic young men do not go well with access to automatic weapons.

  8. PursuitAce says:

    I’m amazed that no one can understand why kids can do this. I guess you have to have been there to understand what’s going on with them. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often.

  9. Richard Aubrey says:

    The issue is that some people like to do this stuff. In the UK and Australia, the laws are even stricter. Only the bad guys have guns, as you would expect.
    However, it wasn’t until the security cops showed up at Ft. Hood that the guy got stopped. Ditto the El Al desk at LAX. Cop at the Trolley Square Mall in Salt Lake City. The Columbine guys had devised a couple of propane bombs, in addition, but the bombs didn’t go off.
    The bad guys are going to have guns. Count on it.
    Gun free zones are the only place for mass shootings, the local laws notwithstanding.

  10. Gina Beavers says:

    Richard, forgot to include Brady response to illegal gun crime,
    Here are the stats on their site:

  11. Gina Beavers says:

    Richard, 85% of the guns used in crimes in New York city are illegally obtained from out of state. North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia are major sources. This is from the NYC.gov site. When Bloomberg and other big city mayors tried to go after the small percentage of gun dealers who were selling to these crime networks they were completely shut down by the NRA.

    Lots of innocent people are dying to keep the ‘right’ to easy access to guns.

  12. Richard Aubrey says:

    Tom. Your belief that more guns aren’t the answer is not connected to reality. It’s a matter of guns are icky. If somebody had shot the VaTech shooter just as he got going, fewer people would have died. The qiuestion is whether having more people die is a worthwhile price to pay for the belief that more guns are not the answer.
    There was a church in Colorado where some clown came in loaded for mass murder. A security guard shot him before he got very many rounds off and, iirc, he was the only one hurt. Good result? Bad result?
    If you don’t know people who are aware of the cost of the war, you have a limited circle.d Which is not the problem of the nation, of society or of some ghostly “we”.

  13. Richard Aubrey says:

    Gina. In those states, self-defense in any situation is much tougher. Look at DC, Chicago, NYC, for gun crime. Strong laws. High rates of gun crime. Brady’s view is…?

    • Tom Matlack says:

      NYC gun crime has actually gone down dramatically over the last 15 years actually.

      • Tom,

        Crime IN GENERAL has gone down in the last 15 years on a national level. You need to do an apples-to-apples comparison.

        According to Gina’s theory, California should see considerably less gun crime than neighboring Oregon because California’s gun laws are so much more stringent (based on Brady assessments). Yet the FBI uniform crime reports, as compiled conveniently by The Guardian (a British newspaper) found that Oregon enjoyed significantly lower rates of gun crime than California.

        Similarly, Utah and Nevada are both listed as having relatively lax gun laws (1-10 out of 100), yet Utah has 1/3rd the gun-murder rate of Nevada.

        The theory is just not born out by data. There are similar discrepancies if you compare Ohio and Indiana, or West Virginia and Virginia, or Delaware and any state that borders it (Delaware is apparently a hotbed of gun crime), or Massachusetts, which has very stringent gun laws and yet high gun crime, and New Hampshire and Vermont, which both have lax laws and low gun crime rates.

        I’m sorry, but there are many factors that determine the rate of gun crime, and gun control laws are simply not one of them, or else there would not be so many obvious and glaring discrepancies.

  14. Gina Beavers says:

    For the last ten years or so, every time there is a mass shooting, I go to the Brady Bill website and look at the points the state is given for their gun laws. Nine times out of ten, the state where the shooting has occurred has some of the laxest gun laws in the country. Virginia and Colorado are good examples of this. Ohio gets just 7 out of 100 from the Brady bill site for their gun laws. In states with tough gun laws, it is much rarer for these kinda of shootings to happen, that is the bottom line. If you don’t want this kind of thing to happen in your community, support strong gun laws in your state. End of story.

  15. Richard Aubrey says:

    Couple of points:

    Who’s this “we” you’re telling us has quit talking about the costs of war? Maybe you need new friends.

    Such high human cost. I did some math and figured that, at the rate my father’s division suffered casualties in WW II, we should have had something like 15000 dead in the first three years of the Iraq invasion. And my father’s division was so skilled at its job that it was known for achieving its objectives with very low cost. In fact, when I got to Benning several wars later, the Timberwolves were used as an example for a certain kind of combat.
    Just finished a book on the Thirty Years War and one, Empires of The Sea, about the siege of Malta, Lepanto and the “war for the middle of the world”. There’s some human cost for you.
    The military, sensitive to buck fever (see Hemingway’s The Killers) and a possibly bogus report by Marshall in Men Against Fire, uses what is sometimes known as operant conditioning to teach guys to pull that first time, before the other guy does. When I was in, we got BB guns and hunted each other in thick woods at close range. Now, some of it looks like video games. If it works in one place, it might work in another.
    Solution is to treat video games like loaded guns and not let kids have them.
    There was a shooting in Paducah some years ago which involved a kid who’d had a video game with a laser pistol with which he would shoot at targets on the screen. By horrid coincidence, the pistol he got for the actual shooting had the same angle in the hand, the same “point”, as the one with which he’d fired tens of thousands of times at the screen. His shots with real bullets were uncannily accurate, and deadly.
    Leaves the question of why somebody would do it. Bullying is the usual answer because you can make laws against bullying, have anti-bullying programs, decry bullies (who are presumed to be jocks which makes it doubly delicious) and avoid the possiblity that there are some people who, in a nation of more than 300 million, are going to do this stuff and there’s nothing you can do about it.
    Slightly off topic: After the VaTech shootings, one dead kid, a ROTC cadet, was found in a position and with wounds suggesting he’d tried to jump the shooter. Fortunately, thekid didn’t have a gun or somebody might have been hurt.
    Which brings up the point that, since we don’t know how to stop these things from starting, we might look at the actual fact that mass shootings only happen in gun-free zones. Other than the fact that guns are icky, is there a problem with allowing various staff who are trained to carry guns in school? So if we can’t stop these things from starting, we can possibly stop them before the body count gets as high as it has in one place or another.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      Richard I don’t believe that more guns is the answer to anything. Sorry. And I am not about to minimize the brutality of prior wars going back to the Civil War and WW1 and 2. But the last ten years has been a particular kind of war because it’s hard to tell here in the US that we are even at war. During those conflicts everyone knew the cost being paid. And why.


  1. […] course, this comes only a week after the shooting outside Cleveland, where T.J. Lane walked into the cafetaria at Chardon High School and shot five students, killing […]

  2. […] Read more from Tom Matlack on the Ohio shooting tragedy […]

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