The 2019 Americans Against Gun Violence National High School Essay Contest is Now Closed to New Entries

We'll be announcing the contest winners and posting their essays soon. Click on this link to read the winning essays in the 2018 Americans Against Gun Violence National High School Essay Contest

Student Walkout at Vigil for STEM Charter School Mass Shooting Victims Highlights the Importance of Our National High School Essay Contest

A Message from the President of Americans Against Gun Violence

High school students attending a vigil in the school auditorium on the evening after the mass shooting on the campus of the STEM charter school in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, disrupted the program after U.S. Senator Michael Bennett and U.S. Representative Jason Crow spoke concerning the need for stronger gun laws to prevent such tragedies from recurring. Some students shouted profanities at the press and started chanting, “Mental health, mental health, mental health,” even though there was no indication that the alleged shooter had previously demonstrated any signs of mental illness. Many students walked out of the auditorium, but some subsequently returned and seized the podium. One male student said over the microphone, “This is not a vigil, this is purely a political stunt.” Another said, “We can’t be used as a reason for gun control.”

My first reaction as I read about the walkout and watched the videos was frustration, anger, and even a bit of despair. How could these students have become indoctrinated with gun lobby ideology at such a young age? The more I though about the walkout, though, the more energized I became.

The walkout at the Highlands Ranch STEM charter school should erase any doubt as to the importance of our Americans Against Gun Violence National High School Essay Contest as a means of not only fostering and rewarding critical thinking in our youth on the gun violence issue, but also as a means of empowering and motivating them to write, speak, and act with the necessary knowledge and confidence to be effective in helping to curb the epidemic of gun violence in our country – an epidemic in which American high school age youth are murdered with guns at a rate that is 82 times higher than the average rate in the other high income democratic countries of the world...

 

Read the full message

Preventing Firearm Related Deaths and Injuries in the United States of America
Mission Statement of Americans Against Gun Violence

Revised February 17, 2019

 

Firearm related deaths and injuries are a serious public health problem in the United States of America, and the rate of gun related deaths in our country is currently at least ten times higher than the average rate for the other high income democratic countries of the world. It is the position of Americans Against Gun Violence that we have not only the ability, but also the moral responsibility, to reduce rates of firearm related deaths and injuries in our country to levels that are at or below the rates in other economically advanced democratic countries.

Like other gun violence prevention organizations, we support common sense firearm regulations. We believe, however, that common sense dictates that in order to reduce rates of gun violence in the United States to levels comparable to other high income democratic countries, we must adopt comparably stringent gun control laws – laws that go far beyond the limited measures currently being advocated by other U.S. gun violence prevention organizations. Specifically, we believe that we should follow the examples of Australia and the United Kingdom, both of which reacted swiftly and definitively following mass shootings in their countries over two decades ago, by banning civilian ownership of all automatic and semi-automatic rifles, as in the case of Australia, and by banning civilian ownership of all handguns, as in the case of the United Kingdom. We also believe that we should follow the example of every other high income democratic country in requiring registration of all firearms and licensing of all firearm owners. Finally, we believe that in the United States, as in all other economically advanced democratic countries, the burden of proof  should be on any person seeking to acquire a gun to show convincing evidence that he or she needs one and can handle one safely, not on society to show evidence that he or she should not have a gun. And given the large body of evidence showing that there is no net protective value from owning or carrying a gun, “self defense” should not be automatically accepted as a reason for owning a gun in the United States, just as it is not accepted in most other high income democratic countries.

In the United States, like in other economically advanced democratic countries, stringent gun control laws need not prevent legitimate hunters and target shooters from pursuing their sports. As in those other countries, though, stringent regulation of civilian firearm ownership should be accompanied by stringent regulation of the use of lethal force by law enforcement officers.

The Second Amendment, as it was interpreted repeatedly by the Supreme Court and almost every lower court for the first 217 years of our nation’s history, is no obstacle to the adoption of the stringent gun control laws advocated by Americans Against Gun Violence. The 2008 Heller decision, however, in which a narrow 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court ruled that the District of Columbia’s partial ban on handgun ownership violated the Second Amendment, is a significant obstacle. In the Heller decision, five justices endorsed an interpretation of the Second Amendment that the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger had called “…one of the biggest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word, ‘fraud’ - on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.” It is the position of Americans Against Gun Violence that the Heller case was wrongly decided. In the short term, Heller should be overturned. In the long term, Americans Against Gun Violence advocates the adoption of a new constitutional amendment that clarifies the Second Amendment in a manner consistent with the following statement in the majority opinion in the Supreme Court’s 1980 Lewis decision:

The Second Amendment guarantees no right to keep and bear a firearm that does not have “some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.”

We are confident that one day, the United States will adopt stringent gun control laws comparable to the laws that have long been in effect in every other high income democratic country of the world. The only question is how many more innocent Americans will be killed and injured by guns before that day arrives. It is our mission to make that day come sooner rather than later.

Click on this link for a fully referenced, downloadable version of this mission statement in PDF format.