April 24, 2018

Moving from Fear to Permanent Change

Guest Contributor: Minna Bachman

Being a student nowadays seems to be getting more and more difficult. My first memory where I knew something was wrong was in fourth grade when my classmates and I shuffled into the our next class following art, which was in the other building at my elementary school. My teacher, an Israeli and family friend of mine, looked distressed while speaking on the phone. Her muffled language, as she covered her mouth with her hands, revealed something had gone very wrong.
Six months before, in July of 2012, a gunman opened fire at a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” at a theater in Aurora, Colorado. James Holmes, the killer, took the lives of 12 and injured 58. A month later, Wade Michael Page, a white supremacist, killed 6 members of a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
Our teacher stood in front of us on the phone hearing about one of the most horrifying news stories of the 2010s. The day was December 14, 2011 and my teacher was finding out about Sandy Hook Elementary. I had a gut feeling that day, that horror had struck again at the hands of a murderer and the trigger of a semi-automatic.
The truth of the matter is that compared to many other children, I have it far easier. Growing up in Brooklyn in the 2000’s and 2010’s, I do not even know what gun fire sounds like outside of an action movie. Gun violence has plagued and tortured the streets of inner-cities and low income neighborhoods, which are by far more susceptible to violence and crime.
This begs the question of what it is that provokes a sense of empathy – how can I relate to victims of gun violence? My answer to this is simple: acknowledge your circumstance.  
Legislatively speaking, living in New York presents good odds of never being exposed to gun violence. A blue state with firm gun laws, I believe I am being kept safe by New York’s laws against open carrying. Because of its majority liberal population, it is also harshly intolerant to the possession of firearms.
The NYPD also plays a huge role in my safety. NYC has a target on its back when it comes to terrorism, which forces the NYPD to be one of the best police forces in the world.
In the wake of all that has been going on, current events only make going to school more unsettling. It feels as if a different public place has had to be evacuated or put on lockdown because a student or stranger has threatened it.
As more and more people look toward legislature change, it is important to note that gun reforms will not decrease our odds of being threatened because they cannot change the homicidal thoughts of the mentally ill or isolated, but they will debilitate them.
Outside of my identity as a New Yorker, there is a broader patriotic duty which transcends state borders. As a young adult, voting is an exciting prospect on the horizon for me politically. It worries me that the integrity of the democracy, which I will soon be participating in by voting is under threat.
The NRA donates copious amounts of money to politicians ever year, which seems to sway leaders and throws the democracy, we as citizens are supposed to trust, off balance. It also creates falsehood in the legislation which we pass off as real progress. Texas, for example, is not an open carry state, but in the past months its representatives and politicians have accepted more than $500K in donations from the NRA.
As a student, I’m concerned because not all of this is life or death. As a student, this almost seems to uncover my eyes. For the entirety of my childhood, I believed that change comes with votes, but what I now realise is change comes with donations and lobbies.
Students begin to feel complete and utter fear, that perhaps change is not on the way. There is an important lesson to remember. We are the next generation and the antagonist of our mortality is big and metal and shoots 45 rounds a minute. Use your voice, use your feet, use your signs and use each other. We are one generation, we are one team and we are all under threat in some way. We can bring drastic change and we can only do it together.

Minna Bachman is in the 9th grade at Bard High School Early College on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She is an avid political rights activist within her community and works hard to fight for what she believes in. Her goal is to assist in the battle of making our world a safer place for all.


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