My Atlanta Jewish Academy classmates did an amazing job putting together AJA’s National Student Walkout. It was moving, organized and well-executed, from the somber background music to the cards handed out with a quote about each victim.
The memorial recognized each individual whose life was lost, and Rabbi Adam Starr recited a heart-wrenching perek of Tehillim (a chapter of Psalms).
Standing by the flagpole, hearing my friends talk about kids our own age dying in school, I felt trapped. I was angry, and I was hurt. I was fearful, and I was disappointed. I pictured the shooter in my mind, and immediately my fists clenched.
And because of this, I didn’t participate in the student walkout.
The walkout consisted of two parts: the first to memorialize and the second to demand new gun laws. In the first part, memorializing, I took part; I’ve always believed that it’s important to dedicate time and memory to those who have left this world too early. But the second part, demanding new gun laws, is something I see as ridiculous and almost a waste of our time.
On Dec. 15, 1791, the Second Amendment was ratified. It states that we have the right “to keep and bear Arms,” and it was written with good reason: If our government were ever to attack us, we would need some form of protection.
The same can be said for every situation: If someone is pointing a gun at you, it would be pretty handy to have a gun, too. Guns supply our mortal bodies with the means to retaliate against and protect ourselves from those who wish to hurt us.
Many people look at this situation and think, “Well, why don’t we just get rid of guns?” Seemingly, that would get rid of the problem; however, that isn’t the case.
The answer has three parts.
The first part simply suggests that no matter whether something is illegal, a bad person will find a way of obtaining any object desired. Take, for instance, drugs that have the capabilities to kill: Students my own age find ways to get around the law and endanger their lives every day. Alcohol falls under this example, too.
The same can be said for guns. Even if we make guns impossible to buy legally, options such as the black market exist. Because good people wouldn’t break the law and wouldn’t find ways to get guns, and because bad people would break the law to get guns, the situation results in only bad people with weapons.
Where would that leave us, the good people? It would leave us without any form of protection.
The second part, similar to the first, brings to mind that bad people will find other ways to commit terror. Let’s say that no one, even the bad guys, has access to guns. In this case, the bad guys can find other ways to murder, and the public is still left without any form of protection.
The third part is the most complex. The third part tells us that, weapons aside, the problem doesn’t lie in the gun itself. The third part explains that the real issue is the people behind the guns, the people pulling the triggers.
People take to the streets in marches, demanding a change in gun laws, demanding we put gun control at the top of the list, but it is the human who pulls the trigger.
We live in a society that is devoid of love and acceptance. We are plagued with depression and anxiety — mental diseases that are so often disregarded as teens just being teens. We call each other bad names, bully one another in person and online, and brush it all aside as if bullying is something regular and normal.
We have problems with our self-esteem and with our relationships with others, and instead of trying to fix these problems, we distract ourselves with selfies and homework. Our society is built on avoiding the real problems and instead creating problems out of what could be solutions.
Believe it or not, gun violence isn’t even on the top 10 list for causes of death. Instead, diseases are the causes for most deaths in the United States. In fact, you are 38 percent more likely to die from falling over than from a finger pulling a trigger.
Our resources need to be dedicated not to opposing our means of protection, but to solving the problem at its core.
On our high school students’ Facebook page, Yitzi Zolty, an AJA junior, posted an inspiring photo labeled “#Walk Up NOT Out.” The picture outlined ways to join the National Student Walk Up, such as by walking UP to the kids who sit alone and asking them to join your group or by walking UP to your teachers and saying thank you for all the hard work they do.
Movements like these, movements of kindness and motivation and love and respect, are the kinds of movements that will make a lasting impact on issues that matter most.
Rather than participate in the march, Shayna Shapiro, an AJA freshman, learned Torah with me for the 17 minutes commemorating those who died. We studied a book about Tehillim and learned about the importance of following b’derech Hashem, in the way of G-d.
In the last passage of Masechet Brachos, Rabbi Elazar says in the name of Rabbi Chaninah, “Torah scholars increase peace in the world.” While I don’t know for sure how to increase peace and cease bloodshed, I do know that the correct steps to take are those involving others. It can be anything from sitting with a friend learning Torah to inviting someone without many friends to join your study group.
Life is about living, and I chose not to participate in the National Student Walkout because I chose to participate in the National Student Walk Up instead. I chose to stay true to my ideals and beliefs regarding the Second Amendment, and every day I continue to stay true to the idea that we can diminish violence by creating an environment of love.
Eliana Goldin is a 10th-grader at Atlanta Jewish Academy.