Americans Against Gun Violence is pleased to announce the winners of our 2022 National High School Essay Contest, which was open to all U.S. high school students. To enter the contest, students were required to submit an original essay of 500 words or fewer by April 16, 2022, describing their thoughts about the following statement made by the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger during an interview on the PBS News Hour on December 16, 1991:

If I were writing the Bill of Rights now, there wouldn’t be any such thing as the Second Amendment…. This has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word ‘fraud’ – on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.


We received winning essay submissions from students attending high school in 12 of the 50 states (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania). The winners were chosen via a rigorous process in which more than 20 Americans Against Gun Violence members participated, reading and rating essays blinded to any student identifying information. In the essay contest instructions, we announced that we would be awarding a total of at least $15,000 to twelve winners, with the option of providing additional awards, as we have done the past three years, if we received more than 12 outstanding essays. Again this year, our readers felt there were indeed more than 12 outstanding essays, and we are therefore awarding a total of $16,300 to 25 winners.

While we are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s essay contest, we are once again deeply troubled by the students’ poignant descriptions of the devastating effect on American youth of the ongoing epidemic of gun violence in our country, an epidemic that those of us in older generations should have stopped long ago. We are also troubled by the fact that again this year, many students have not felt secure in having their names or the names of their high schools published in association with their essays. It is part of our mission at Americans Against Gun Violence to change the toxic culture in our country that makes students fear for their safety if they speak openly and frankly about the need to take definitive action to protect our children and our youth from the threat of gun violence.

Donations to support our annual high school essay contest will help ensure that we are able to continue to offer the contest in future years. Donations are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by state and federal laws, and 100% of donations to the essay contest fund go directly to student awards.

The winners of our 2022 National High School Essay Contest are:


First Place Winner

$3,000 Award

(Student’s name and high school withheld at student’s request)

We’re All Militiamen Now:

How the Gun Lobby Rewrote the Constitution

 …Until recently, the Supreme Court had rightly interpreted the Second Amendment as a limited provision inextricably linked to preserving a militia. In the 1970s, however, the NRA and its ilk launched a vigorous campaign to uncouple the right to “keep and bear Arms” from the necessity of a “well-regulated Militia”….It is well past time to restore the Second Amendment to its original meaning and adopt gun control laws in the United States comparable to those in other advanced democratic countries. We cannot delay, for tens of thousands of lives are at stake every year…. [Read the full essay]



Second Place Winner

$2,500 Award

Ruby Solomon

Fremont High School, Sunnyvale, California

No Defense for the Second Amendment

…The late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger asserted in 1991 that the Second Amendment, which had been interpreted for the first two centuries of our country’s existence as conferring a collective right for states to maintain armed militias for the common defense, was being fraudulently misrepresented by special interest groups….The National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, and countless other “gun rights” organizations believe that their invented “right” to own guns is more important than the safety of not just school children, but the tens of thousands of other Americans who die from gun violence each year….[Read the full essay]



Third Place Winner

$2,000 Award

Sebastian Maldonado

Saint Francis High School, Mountain View, California

Seeking Refuge

“El sueño americano que me vendieron es una mentira.” “The American Dream they sold me is a lie,” I overheard my mother wearily mutter under her breath as she guided me through our vacant, dimly lit neighborhood streets. As we made our way to my elementary school for the first time, I could sense a lifetime’s worth of fear in the closeness with which she held me, not realizing she was protecting me from the gun violence that continues to ravage America today….[Read the full essay]



$1,000 Winner

Maddy Black

University High School, San Francisco, California

Who and What Are You Protecting?

 … The Second Amendment has been hijacked and manipulated by special interest groups to the extent that it is almost unrecognizable from the original amendment. The American people, including American children and youth, are the victims of this fraud, which places the economic interests of the U.S. gun lobby and the associated gun industry as a higher priority than even the lives of first grade children….[Read the full essay]



$1,000 Winner

Mason Davis

Bloomington High School North, Bloomington, Indiana


 …I myself come from a hunting background and a family culture that recognizes the danger of possessing and operating firearms. I am happy to comply with all of my state regulations, from taking the Hunters Education Course when I was thirteen to renewing my hunting licence annually….Gun regulations are not an attack on the rights of gun owners, but protection of the rights of life and liberty for myself and my family, and I am grateful for them. [Read the full essay]



$1,000 Winner

Samantha Podnar

North Allegheny Senior High School, Wexford, Pennsylvania

A Decades Long Deception

 One wall of the National Rifle Association’s headquarters bears a quote in brassy cursive letters: “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” But this fragment from the Second Amendment contains a deliberate omission, warping the original meaning. The modern gun rights movement is predicated on this lie….[Read the full essay]



$1,000 Winner

Naomi Scissors

Richard Montgomery High School, Rockville, Maryland


 The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” These words have been twisted by the gun lobby and, as a result, misinterpreted by the Supreme Court to keep money flowing into the hands of gun manufacturers at the expense of tens of thousands of American lives every year….[Read the full essay]



$1,000 Winner

Mackena Weber

Mira Loma High School, Sacramento, California

The Race to Rewrite History

….As the work of special interest groups to deceive the American public continues, one has to wonder: If mass shootings and deaths are not enough to create change, then what will? As long as American society watches these tragedies play out on the news and in our own lives, special interest groups will continue to profit at humanity’s expense. The regulation of arms that was once a rarely-disputed reality of the Second Amendment must become a standard. To end this country’s collective suffering, we must cast special interests aside and instead consider our own. [Read the full essay]



$1,000 Winner

(Student’s name withheld at student’s request)

Aragon High School, San Mateo, California

The NRA’s Gun Control Fraud

… The meaning of the Second Amendment had not been a controversial view in most quarters, including the legal arena, since its enactment in 1791. But the National Rifle Association, the largest gun advocacy group in the U.S., saw an opening in the wording. The NRA sponsored research aimed at overturning binding legal precedents that restricted the right to bear arms….Its investment paid handsome dividends in the 2008 Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller. The decision was a stunning rebuke of historical perspectives….[Read the full essay]



$1,000 Winner

(Student’s name and high school withheld at student’s request)

The Second Amendment: Twisted Into Terror

 … If we want to remove the bloody thread of gun violence from the fabric of American life, we must realize the truth about the Second Amendment, and we must realize the actions necessary for change–the creation of strong gun control laws that deal with America’s reality and reverse the harm the gun lobby’s fraudulent misrepresentation of the Second Amendment has ultimately done. I believe that my generation, the one that enters a classroom and immediately checks for exit points, will undertake these actions in honor of our peers who have fallen beside us and in pursuit of a world we are proud, not dismayed, to live in. [Read the full essay]



$250 Winner

(Student’s name and high school withheld at student’s request)

A Constitutional Charade

 … Once known as the “lost amendment” because it was seldom debated at the appellate level in nearly 200 years of American jurisprudence, the [Second Amendment] right to bear arms has become a touchstone in modern culture wars…The NRA funded academic studies to dispute the long-settled belief that the Second Amendment is a collective right reserved to the states. Instead, it gradually came to be seen – socially and in the courts – as an individual right to bear arms, independent of a militia….The result: despite horrific mass shootings and everyday gun violence, the country has been unable to pass any significant federal reforms….




$250 Winner

(Student’s name and high school pending student’s consent)

The NRA’s Deadly Pretense

 … Warren Burger, late chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, did not mince words when he denounced the twisted interpretation of the Second Amendment by special interests, calling it a “fraud”…. Burger, who died in 1995, would undoubtedly be aghast at what has happened in the interim. Most notably: the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision, which established a right for D.C. residents to keep handguns…outside the context of a militia.



$100 Winner

Deul Choi

University High School, Irvine, California

Pulling the Trigger on America

 … While gun supporters and individual right theorists claim that they have a right to bear arms for self-defense, they fail to interpret the historical origin and context of the Second Amendment, they justify gun violence with this flawed logic, and ironically, through their obsession over gun rights, they violate everyone else’s right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”…More often than not, guns are used to harm others, rather than in self-defense….Furthermore, a pro-gun-based misinterpretation of the Second Amendment is an attack on the youth of our nation, and thus an attack on our future…..



$100 Winner

Mallory Doyle

St. Joseph High School, Trumbull, Connecticut

Opposition of Viewpoints

…As the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger alluded with his 1991 quote, there were concerns at the time that the gun lobby was fraudulently misrepresenting the Second Amendment as conferring an individual right to own guns unrelated to service in a well regulated militia….Justice Burger was insightful and succinct in his observations, but more importantly, just as there was a change in opinions and viewpoints on the proper interpretation of the Second Amendment based on the gun lobby’s disinformation campaign, the tides can just as easily change when accurate information is disseminated….We all have a part in determining public opinion, and by openly discussing the true history and intent of the Second Amendment, we can all contribute to reversing what Justice Burger appropriately called “one of the greatest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word, ‘fraud’- on the American public by special interest groups” that he had ever seen in his lifetime. [Read the full essay]



$100 Winner

Gabriel Hernandez-Ramirez

Bloomington High School North, Bloomington, Indiana

Second Amendment: Its Roots and Consequences

 … The late Chief Justice Warren Burger spoke of the fraudulent misrepresentation of the Second Amendment by the U.S. gun lobby as conferring an individual right to own guns. But there’s an even darker side to the Second Amendment. There’s credible evidence that the origin of the Amendment dates back to the suppression of slave revolts like the rebellion in Stono, South Carolina in 1739. White militias in the South were used by plantation owners to keep the Black slave population in subjugation. It’s not only possible, but likely, that one of the reasons – if not the main reason – for the inclusion of the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights was to reassure southern states that they could keep their armed slave patrols…. Gunshot wounds are now the leading cause of death in in our country for children ages 1-19. We can’t continue to allow the fraudulent misrepresentation of an antiquated amendment with racist origins to prevent us from adopting the kind of strict gun control laws needed to protect our children and our youth..



 $100 Winner

Jiin Yun

Orange County School of the Arts, Santa Ana, California


…The Second Amendment was created to prevent a standing army, which was deemed unnecessary in 1789. In the context of the Revolutionary War, a “militia” was a group of soldiers that joined with the common purpose of protecting their communities….However, militias are long gone, and military technology has advanced tremendously, making the Second Amendment irrelevant to today’s society….Keeping the right to bear arms is equivalent to losing our freedom of walking outside without the fear of getting shot….




$100 Winner

Nicolas Tavares

Casa Roble Fundamental High School, Orangevale, California


 … When Sandy Hook took place, my younger siblings were the same age as the victims. Every day since, my mom has feared for our safety as she sends us to school….I was 13 when the Parkland shooting happened; I was much more aware of the dangers of school shootings at that point. …It is always in the back of my mind that my life is in danger, even when I am just sitting in class….Unfortunately, the framers had no idea how poorly we’d understand the Second Amendment, and how deadly weapons would get. Justice Burger understood the framers created the 2nd Amendment as a State’s right, to keep a well-regulated militia, such as the National Guard. It was never meant to refer to an individual “right to bear arms.”



$100 Winner

Carson Wang

(Name of high school withheld at student’s request) Mason, Ohio

Times Change

…Militias no longer bear a significant role in our national security. Instead, the strongest standing army in the world defends our shores, our seas, and our states…We have no need for the minutemen of old, nor for citizens to walk with weapons in hand, but even so, the Second Amendment still exists….Special interest groups, and along with them, the gun companies that they represent… lobby for laws to protect gun ownership, all in the name of rights….But such relentless self-promotion is, first and foremost, fraud. Fraud, which is defined as deception intended for personal gain….




$100 Winner

Ashwin Telang

(Name of high school withheld at student’s request) West Windsor, New Jersey

How the Second Amendment Turned Terrible

Too often do we ignore that for 218 years, justices interpreted the Second Amendment not as a personal right to arms but as a militia’s right. The framers created the amendment so states could use a militia to protect themselves….But militias have little relevance today. Subsequently, the NRA trashed the “militia interpretation” and gave way to a new “individual right interpretation”…. Using lobbying strength, the NRA then broadcasted that the Second Amendment provided a universal right to arms….We live in a very different age than 1991 because of the NRA. One where more guns exist than people in America….




$100 Winner

Hailey Flickinger

(High school name and location withheld at student’s request)

Human Right or Luxury?

… Our churches, supermarkets, schools, libraries, hospitals, daycares, concert venues, workplaces are threatened every single day so long as our country does not introduce stringent gun laws. Our democracy is threatened every single day….When Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger discussed the fraudulent misrepresentation of the Second Amendment by special interest groups, he knew that our country was in danger….Are we willing to put our own children’s lives on the line for someone who feels the need to have a military-type weapon in their home?




$100 Winner

(Student’s name and high school withheld at student’s request)


…I go to school in the Bronx, one of the most violent places in America, where it’s both illegal and common for youth under the age of 21 to carry handguns, and where the vast majority of gunshot victims are African American. Because communities of color tend to distrust law enforcement, in the Bronx and similar urban neighborhoods, people take the law into their own hands — functioning sometimes as de facto militias, arming themselves in the belief that owning and carrying guns will help them defend their own rights, but too often violating the rights of others, and ultimately fueling the vicious cycle of violence. Even if the late Chief Justice Warren Burger was right to call the gun lobby’s misrepresentation of the Second Amendment a “fraud,” clarifying the amendment’s true meaning is only a starting point for stopping gun violence in communities like mine. To stop gun violence in the Bronx and other similar urban communities, we must also address the reasons why the residents of such communities feel more threatened than protected by the law enforcement agencies that are supposed to be serving them….




$100 Winner

(Student’s name and high school name withheld at student’s request) Oro Valley, Arizona

An Amoral Amendment

… The gun lobby’s misinterpretation of the Second Amendment enables the uniquely American epidemic of gun violence. Even if complete repeal is unlikely, we must argue in the courts for a more rational interpretation of that infamous sentence. We have to fulfill our moral obligation to the next generation and make long overdue, sensible reforms…We have to prevent another Sandy Hook or Parkland. We have to fight the deep-pocketed gun lobby, so our American future can be one where no one lives in fear of being gunned down at a supermarket.




$100 Winner

(Student’s name and high school withheld at student’s request)

The Real Big Lie: How the Gun Lobby Defrauded America

Every Monday morning at 9:30 am, my school’s PA system comes to life and orchestrates the Pledge of Allegiance. Some stand and recite the Pledge. Others sit in respectful silence. The prominence of the Pledge in our public education system epitomizes the zealous American desire to preserve and protect this country’s democratic heritage – which extends to the Constitution. Unfortunately, this aspiration does not always hold true, especially when we scrutinize the Second Amendment. While “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms’ has been ingrained into our colloquial constitutional lexicon, we often fail to consider its antecedent, ”A well regulated militia.” Our forgetfulness of the phrase “a well regulated militia” is not due to a mere lapse of memory. Rather, it is a direct result of the gun lobby’s decades long campaign of disinformation….




$100 Winner

(Student’s name and high school withheld at student’s request)

A New Way Forward: Targeting Special Interest Groups and Political Polarization

 Every morning, American students wake up and face the terrifying question, “Am I next?” A defining aspect of American education has been mass shootings. We’ve grown up watching students and faculty rush out of schools with their hands over their heads; we’ve huddled silently in dark corners, practicing what to do in case a shooter tries to break into our classroom until the movements become muscle memory; we’ve held countless moments of silence for each victim killed….Fear of mass shootings will, unfortunately, continue to define many educational experiences….



$100 Winner

(Student’s name and high school withheld at student’s request)


The misreading and intentional ignorance [of the Second Amendment], or as Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger identifies it, “fraud,” has been pushed by special interest groups such as the National Rifle Association, which lobby for the retention of this specific interpretation of the Second Amendment to increase political power and money….Even if our founding fathers had meant to allow citizens the right to bear arms even after there was no longer a need for a militia, they could not have imagined what modern guns would become. For every musket shot, a semi-automatic rifle can shoot 150 times. Had our founding fathers foreseen what would become of the Second Amendment, interpreted to promote unnecessary death and violence for the benefit of special interest groups, the Bill of Rights would have passed with only nine amendments.



[i] The interview with Justice Burger can be viewed at The interview begins at 7 minutes and 48 seconds into this PBS highlights recording.