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School Shooter or TikTok Influencer?

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at ODU chapter.

A school shooter was released from prison and has somehow managed to gain a following on TikTok. He was then attacked by a black man and that man was sentenced to more years in prison than the school shooter.

The shooter’s name is Jon Romano and in 2004, he went into his school with a gun. no one was killed, but one teacher was wounded. He was caught and charged to 17 years in prison. 

Romano was released in 2020 and became an advocate against gun violence, sparking recent controversy since he has gained almost 300,000 followers on TikTok. There are many people questioning the ethics of allowing a reformed school shooter to have a social media following, especially on an app like TikTok where there are many kids and teenagers who are impressionable watching and might think that putting people’s life in danger is okay as long as you apologize for it. Not to mention there might be other reformed criminals watching that think they could do the same thing when that is simply not okay. 

Some people might say “but he didn’t kill anyone,” which is true, but it is not just about that. It is all his fellow classmates who thought they were coming to school that day and ended up having to hear gunshots in a place where they are supposed to feel safe. Being in a situation like that can cause so much trauma and those classmates having to see him all over the news and all over TikTok could bring up that trauma and negatively impact their mental health. 

The way he talks about what he did is very infuriating because he tries to censor what he did and attempts to make it seem like less than what it was by saying he didn’t intend to kill. However, it doesn’t matter whether he intended to kill or not because you don’t know what can happen if you go into a school with a gun. So, what he intended to do does not matter because yes, he did not kill anyone, but he could have and that is what matters.

It is okay for him to want to redeem himself and do better in the world but that should be done in silence because wanting to redeem himself should be a personal endeavor, not broadcasted to the entire world. It feels really insincere for him to express his regret and apologies in front of an online audience. If he really felt bad about what he had done, he would not feel the need to use TikTok to express his regret because I believe when you feel apologetic and want to make amends you should be doing that for yourself or the people you hurt.

One of the other things he talks about on his TikTok is the attack he went through in 2022 when a man attacked him with a sword. In one TikTok, he mentions how they wanted to sentence his attacker to life, but he vouched for him and got the sentence down to 25 years. When he talks about it, he tries to make it seem like he is a savior by saying he helped the guy less years.

He then proceeded to talk about how the man that attacked him had mental health issues and that it should have been considered. He has also said that the man should have been charged with a hate crime for calling him a “white devil.” When it came to sentencing of the man that attacked him, many believed he did not deserve to be charged with 25 years especially considering that Romano was charged with 17 years for being a school shooter. It is also believed that the difference in the sentencing has something to do with race, since this is something we have seen repeatedly. 

There have been many cases of black people being sentenced for way longer than their white counterparts. When looking at the crimes these two men have committed, they are not remarkably similar, however, that does not negate the fact that part of the reason that Romano got a lesser sentence is because he is white. I believe that if he were a black 16-year-old who tried to shoot up a school, he would have gotten life and would not have mattered what he was going through or why he did it. On the other hand, if the man that attacked Romano was white, they would have considered his mental health more and he would have gotten a lesser sentence. 

So, if they were in each other’s positions, things would have turned out much differently, but that should not be the case. The way they are charged for their crimes should not have anything to do with race, but unfortunately there are still many people who discriminate because of race. In 2023, this should not still be happening, but hopefully over time we will see things like this happen less and less.

Lastly, Romano should not be sharing his story on TikTok as if he went through something traumatic, and there are many other ways he could have his redemption, but what he is doing now is not the way. It is simply not fair to the people he hurt and to kids watching him and thinking of him as a role model. Let us just hope there are not any other school shooters watching, thinking they could have their own redemption arc and become TikTok influencers.

Hi! My name is Alexandria Roulds and I am majoring in biomedical sciences. I love animals and have 5 pets myself. I love watching Marvel movies and listening to music and one of my favorite pastimes is roller skating.