"Pious condolences will no longer suffice…"
"Quarter measures and half measures will no longer suffice…"
"The time has now come that we must enact stringent gun control legislation…"
"…gun control legislation comparable to the legislation in force in virtually every civilized country in the world."

Senator Thomas Dodd, June 11, 1968

High School Essay Contest2022-10-09T13:43:44-07:00

Announcing the Winners of our 2024 National High School Essay Contest

Americans Against Gun Violence congratulates the winners of our 2024 National High School Essay Contest, which was open to all U.S. high school students in the United States. To enter the contest, students were required to submit an original essay of 500 words or fewer* describing their thoughts about the following excerpt from the Americans Against Gun Violence Mission Statement:

In creating constitutional obstacles, where none previously existed, to the adoption of stringent gun control laws in the United States comparable to the laws in other high income democratic countries, the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision and its progeny are literally death sentences for tens of thousands of Americans annually.

We received more than 350 entries from high school students across the country in this year’s contest. The winners were chosen via a rigorous process in which more than 20 Americans Against Gun Violence members participated in 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 in scholarships to twelve winners, with the option of providing additional awards, as we’ve done in most past 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 $16,200 divided among 22 winners.

While we are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s essay contest, we are deeply troubled by the fact the high school students chosen as winners in this year’s contest demonstrate a far greater appreciation than the majority of our current Supreme Court justices of the rogue nature of the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision and its progeny and the devastating public health consequences of these decisions. We are also troubled by the fact that again this year, many students have not felt secure in having their names and/or the names of their high schools published in association with their essays. We don’t fault the students who chose not to reveal this information. Rather, we fault the toxic culture in our country that makes students not only fear for their lives every day they go to school, but that makes them fear retaliation if they speak openly about the need to take definitive action to protect our children and youth from the threat of gun violence. It is part of our mission at Americans Against Gun Violence to change this toxic culture

This year’s scholarships bring the total amount of awards that we’ve given students in the seven year history of our national high school essay contest to over $110,000.  Donations to support our annual high school essay contest 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 2024 National High School Essay Contest are:

First Place Winner – $3,000 Scholarship Award

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

Weston High School, Weston, Massachusetts

Heller: A Hidden Hurdle

 Almost always, the use of the phrase “off-the-charts” is a vast overstatement of the truth. The gun violence epidemic in the United States is one of the few cases in which the phrase perfectly encapsulates our reality…. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s rogue 2008 Heller decision, addressing our crisis means attempting to weave a path through the legal barriers that Heller presents. The sad reality of the Supreme Court’s radical reinterpretation of the Second Amendment in Heller is that we are left with few options, background checks and mental health support among them. Alas, none of these measures match the gravity of our off-the-charts problem…. Heller is the concealed barrier at the heart of our shameful crisis. Until Heller and its progeny are overturned, our rate of preventable gun-related deaths will remain off-the-charts in the worst way possible. (Read the full essay)


Second Place Winner – $2,500 Scholarship Award

Layla Kelly

Homestead High School, Fort Wayne, Indiana

The Freedom to Live

… The rate of high schoolers killed by firearms is 82 times higher in the United States than other similarly democratic and economically prosperous nations. These nations have implemented measures that limit gun ownership, which is impossible in our country as long as the Heller decision and its progeny stand as precedents. For our lives and the lives of the students who follow us, I firmly believe that it is our duty to stop allowing older generations to treat our lives as dispensable…. America is in a crisis, and the remedy is the courage of our generation to stand up and confront the twisted precedents that put a higher value on our country’s guns than the lives of our country’s children and youth. (Read the full essay)


Third Place Winner – $2,000 Scholarship Award

Janet Yang

(High School Name and Location Withheld at Student’s Request)

Now Is The Time to Fight for More Stringent Gun Control Laws

… Each day, 327 people are shot in the United States, among them 24 are children and teens…. How can this be America, the land where all “are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness?” On June 26, 2008, when a narrow 5-4 majority of Supreme Court justices ruled in favor of Dick Heller who claimed that Washington DC’s restrictive handgun law violated his Second Amendment rights, the Court effectively rewrote the Second Amendment to the gun lobby’s liking…. (Read the full essay)


$1,000 Scholarship Award Winner

Carter Benson

Elk Grove High School, Elk Grove, California

Deadly Myths

 Myths can exist to explain and reinforce beliefs of a community. Though they can inspire, they can lead to deadly outcomes when they rely on fantasy rather than fact. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court endorsed two deadly myths in one when a narrow 5-4 majority of justices ruled that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right for individuals to keep guns in the home for “self-defense.”…(Read the full essay)


$1,000 Scholarship Award Winner

Neal Chandran

Monte Vista High School, Danville, California

The Heller Fallout: Guns Kill People

 I am sick and tired of hearing, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” This argument became even more popularized by the NRA after the landmark Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), in which a narrow five to four majority of justices reversed over two centuries of legal precedent by ruling that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own a gun unconnected with service in a militia…. The reality is that people with guns kill people far more often than people without guns, and we cannot neatly separate the two issues….(Read the full essay)


$1,000 Scholarship Award Winner

Zachary Tomlin

Rio Americano High School, Sacramento, California

Bad Decisions with Deadly Consequences: The Supreme Court Rules Against Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

…. On an average day in 2022, 132 Americans, including 10 children and youth, were killed with guns. These figures are equivalent to an almost full Boeing 727 airliner crashing with no survivors every single day….The Second Amendment is a single sentence in length. The five justice Heller majority, having ignored the conventions of written English, decided in 2008 that the first half of a sentence does not pertain to the second half of the same sentence…Protecting the rights of the American people – and particularly our children and youth – to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is a fundamental American value, a value that we can no longer neglect just because of the recent bad decisions of a small majority of Supreme Court justices….(Read the full essay)


$1,000 Scholarship Award Winner

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

Betrayal of Trust: The Devastating Toll of the Heller Ruling on the U.S. Public

The Heller ruling, in which a narrow 5-4 majority of justices reversed over two centuries of prior legal precedent and instead endorsed the gun lobby’s extremist interpretation of the Second Amendment, left me in shock. How is private gun ownership more important than the lives of our youth? …The willingness of the court to interpret the “right to bear arms,” described in the second half of the Amendment, as being unrelated to service in the “well regulated militia,” described in the first half of the Amendment, even with the overwhelming amount of evidence of the horror that widespread private gun ownership has caused, is alarming. (Read the full essay)


$1,000 Scholarship Award Winner

(Author’s name and High School Withheld at Student’s Request)

The Heller Decision and Its Progeny: Guarantees of “self-defense” or “death sentences” wrongly decided?

Since 2008, over five people per hour, on average, have served “death sentences,” as described by Americans Against Gun Violence, related, in part, to the Heller decision – deaths due to gunshot wounds that could have been prevented by the adoption of stringent gun control laws that the Heller decision and its progeny have thwarted through the creation of constitutional roadblocks….There’s no mention whatsoever in the history or text of the Second Amendment of a need for private gun ownership for “self-defense.”…(Read the full essay)


$1,000 Scholarship Award Winner

(Author’s name Withheld at Student’s Request)

Etiwanda High School, Rancho Cucamonga, California

Times Have Changed

You are probably not wearing a powdered wig right now. This owes largely to the fact that times have changed since the 1700’s. What was true then (e.g. white coiffures being the epitome of fashion) is not necessarily true today. Yes, there is arguably a logical historical basis for the Second Amendment…. But we do not live in the 1700s. Debate based upon original intent is misplaced….It concerns itself with semantics and centuries-old sentiments, rather than the vastly different and infinitely more pressing issues of modern America….(Read the full essay)


$250 Scholarship Award Winner

Zev Fisher

Orange Glen High School, Escondido, California

The Elephant in the Room: The Heller Decision

Battalion, army, soldiers, troops, infantry, national guard, standing army. What do all of these terms have in common? Like the word, “militia,” they all refer to military institutions. The other thing that these terms have in common is that under no circumstance could any one of them be misinterpreted as defining a single, private individual within society. Why then did a narrow five to four majority of Supreme Court justices conclude for the first time in U.S. history in the 2008 Heller decision that the Second Amendment, which begins with the phrase, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state,” was intended to confer an individual right to own guns unrelated to military service?…(Read the full essay)


$250 Scholarship Award Winner

Madeline Brandhorst

Atlanta, Georga

The Day It All Went To Heller

….Who cares about a societal price tag when some men wrote an awkward sentence 219 years ago about the need for a “well regulated militia,” a sentence that five other men would dust off in 2008 and claim it to mean that it was A-okay for almost anyone in our country to own a gun? Who cares that this week, I experienced my fifth lockdown with no “drill” attached?… When in the world would it be decided that the freedom to own a gun would stand in the way of our right to live? Easy. June 26, 2008. The day it all went to Heller. (Read the full essay)


$100 Scholarship Award Winner

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


As bullets rained down from above that night, piercing the bodies of unsuspecting innocents for death to claim as his own, most people below would not have noticed initially. Enraptured by the concert performance before them, the music would have momentarily drowned out the shouts and screams of the first victims until the entire crowd realized that they were in the midst of a mass shooting. As the shooter wounded and killed with his death machines, my Mom crawled amidst the chaos with her friends and sister to find refuge under the stage, all the while a bloodbath ensued around them….(Read the full essay)


$100 Scholarship Award Winner

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

Rampant Gun Violence Should Not Be Our New Norm

In 2023, school shootings reached yet another record high. Sixteen years after the Heller decision, it’s not surprising that gun violence in our country has escalated to the point of normalcy…. We need to overturn the Heller decision and ban handguns and assault rifles, like other high income democratic countries have done. Until we do, regular school shootings and other forms of rampant gun violence resulting in tens of thousands of deaths annually will continue to be the new norm in the United States of America. (Read the full essay)


$100 Scholarship Winner

Tumelo Johnson

Cedar Shoals High School, Athens, Georgia


Over the course of two hours, 19 students and 2 teachers were shot and killed [in the Robb Elementary School mass shooting]….One day shy of the shooting’s one month anniversary, the Supreme Court showed how little they cared. New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, decided on June 23, 2022, was not a slap but a shot in the face to the grieving parents of Uvalde’s victims. A radical and conservative court completely embraced the faulty and grammatically unsound reading of the Second Amendment by Antonin Scalia in DC v. Heller. Bruen overruled the common sense laws of New York state which required civilians to provide a “special need” for carrying a [concealed] gun….


$100 Scholarship Winner

John Bellamy

Blaine High School, Blaine, Minnesota

Life Over Liberty

The 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms not only in militia service but also for self-defense. While commonly portrayed as a protector of freedom, the precedent set by Heller has caused countless deaths in the United States….To those hesitant to embrace stricter gun laws, I leave you with this reminder: Your rights end where my life begins.


$100 Scholarship Winner

Aravah Chaiken

New York, New York

Trigger Price:  How Gun Companies Co-opted the Second Amendment

One Friday in 2012, a gunman stormed a first grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary with an AR-15, killing twenty first graders and six teachers. The CEO of Daniel Defense later commented in a Forbes interview that, “The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary drove a lot of sales.”  Gun manufacturers donate millions every year to the NRA, which opposes gun regulation and has pushed for a shift in the interpretation of the Second Amendment. The result costs almost 50,000 American lives annually….


$100 Scholarship Winner

Hasset Bekele

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia

Echoes of Fear

My grandma spoke with a tremble in her voice, echoing the disbelief that crossed from her quiet village in Ethiopia to the violent media headlines in the U.S. “Is it true?” she whispered hesitantly. “What they are saying on the radio about children in their schools?” I could sense her fear piercing through every word, a grandmother continents away, powerless and fearing for her grandchild’s safety. “It’s complicated, Grandma,” I replied, my voice heavy with sorrow. “The laws here about guns are very different.” Her sigh was audible, a mix of frustration and anxiety, “No child should have to learn in fear,” she said….


$100 Scholarship Winner

Aidan Brody

Saint Johnsbury Academy, Saint Johnsbury, Vermont

The 9-1-1 Call

… The Second Amendment never conferred individuals the right to own guns, apart from serving in the militia. The Amendment is clear: “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.” The Heller decision, giving people the right to own a gun, regardless of their militia status, has created a nation of out-of-control gun violence. It has changed the quality of life in America, the essence of America….Our country is calling 9-1-1. The cry for help rings as loud as the gunshots themselves. It’s time to act.


$100 Scholarship Winner

Mark Mukminov

Mountain View High School, Mountain View, California


…[I]nfatuation with the right to bear arms stems deeper than the public sentiment, instead uncovering a story of decades-long legalized bribery on a national scale….Following a 1993 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing that gun ownership increased rates of homicide, the NRA successfully lobbied Congress to rewrite the CDC’s budget, banning them from using any funds to “advocate or promote gun control.” In 2003, the NRA gave a $1 million endowment to promote [its version of] the Second Amendment at the George Mason University Law School….


$100 Scholarship Winner

Arshia Zargarani

El Camino Real Charter High School, Woodland Hills, California


The Second Amendment…used to have a straightforward purpose. Within the bounds of its own constraints, the right to keep firearms was only for the “security of a free State,” achieved by a “well-regulated Militia.”… Its single purpose has now become obsolete….When the right to possess firearms lost constitutional relevance, five Supreme Court justices took the liberty [in the 2008 Heller decision] to interpret the Second Amendment outside of its exact wording and the founder’s intentions….So what have been the consequences of conveniently breaking up the Second Amendment into two separate clauses?…. As you would expect, gun violence, murders, and suicides have risen exponentially….



* Note: Students were given the opportunity to edit their essays between the time that they were chosen as winners and the time that essays were posted on the Americans Against Gun Violence website if they wished to clarify major themes or add supporting evidence. The 500 word limit for the original essay submissions was waived for edited essays.

It is so dihydroboldenone how to have a gym at home that doesn’t cost too much – shoe lovers.
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