2019 Gun Safety Essay Scholarship Winners
The second-annual Adras & Altig Criminal Justice Essay Contest received many qualified and compelling essays. Although we wish we could grant scholarships to all applicants, we had to narrow it down to our top 4 this year.
Congratulations to the winners of the 2019 Scholarship Essay Contest:
- Serena Huynh
- Evan Gong
- Cassandra Cannon
- Emily Marvin
Read the four powerful essays below and check back here to apply in 2020!
1st – Serena Huynh
I shouldn’t be praying under my school desk when the intercom says “teachers, students, this is a hard lockdown,” but I do. I shouldn’t be saying “I love you” when I get dropped off at school, making the meaning obsolete just so the last words I tell my parents are those 3 words, but I do. We shouldn’t wait until 58 people are dead from a shooting at a country-music festival to give us a waking call, but we do.
I had a friend named Summer who lived in terror after witnessing the shooting at the Las Vegas Country Music Festival. During class, there would be construction going on outside. The banging and the whirring of their tools constantly reminded her of the deadly sounds on that traumatizing night. I never saw her after she broke down in tears and ran out the door, assuming she chose to drop out of school. Losing a friend made me furious, but the fact that someone else ruined Summer’s future because of PTSD made me fume with anger. We need to stop waiting.
Gun control has been an endless debate with fruitless results, and I want something to be done before I, too, become another number in the headlines. I believe that guns are just as deadly of a weapon as cars are. If drivers need to go through 5 effortful steps to get a license and use a car, then it’s about time that gun holders go through just as much steps for a gun. Not only should the selling of guns be limited, but also the selling of ammunitions. Most people order rounds of ammunition from online sources, and I believe that it should be a certified person’s job to monitor the amount of ammo purchased from any site. Each consumer should be limited to enough rounds of ammunition for self-defense, but not a deadly shooting.
Along with licensing, those who start shootings are usually reported to be mentally ill. What bothers me is that there’s always a family member, friend, or classmate of the shooter that tells the news, “There was something off about him/her lately. I knew they were up to something.” Why was nothing done about it? I believe that it was impossible for them to report the behavior while remaining anonymous and avoiding the hassle of interrogations from the police. To resolve this problem, there should be an accessible platform or mobile app that allows people to report unusual behavior anonymously. If we’re one step further than the shooter, we can stop them before another tragedy strikes.
I’d be lying if I said that owning a gun wouldn’t make me feel safer, but I’m not a hypocrite either. Guns shouldn’t be totally banned, but, ultimately, there should be laws enforcing the licensing and limits on the production of guns. Furthermore, an app at our fingertips would allow us to anonymously report abnormal behavior. I have hope that one day, we can stop hearing about the shootings on the news, and we can stop hiding from our fears of gun violence like an ostrich with its head in a haystack.
2nd – Evan Gong
The profound devastation of the October 1, 2017 mass shooting in my hometown of Las Vegas has reinvigorated the debate over gun policies in Nevada, and by extension, the United States. According to the Giffords Law Center, gun violence causes more than 36,000 deaths each year in our country. These deaths are completely preventable, however, the inability of politicians to enact stronger legislation prevents substantive gun reform. Indeed, I think that a solution for improving gun safety requires the willingness of responsible gun owners to support common-sense gun legislation and look beyond the rhetoric and scare-tactics concocted by special interest groups.
My idea of a safer society is one in which guns are out of the hands of violent people, mentally-ill individuals, and criminals. I think comprehensive background checks for all gun sales make it harder for these people to obtain guns, while providing minimal inconvenience for lawful customers. A short test on gun safety and mandatory waiting periods are also effective in ensuring a clear state of mind for prospective buyers and reducing the risk of rash violence. Furthermore, stronger storage laws, such as requiring firearms to be locked in a container when stored, can help reduce the risk of children accidentally shooting themselves. Finally, I believe courts should have the ability to confiscate weapons from violence people and domestic abusers. These common-sense measures should be appropriately enacted at the state level and enforced under criminal penalty, while the burden should be on gun sellers to ensure compliance with laws pertaining to gun sales. With that, I think the drawbacks outweigh the benefits in restricting certain classes of firearms (i.e. assault rifles) or magazines because gun manufacturers can easily manipulate weapons to evade laws.
As a gun enthusiast and avid shooter myself, I enjoy the pleasures of going out to the desert and shooting targets with my friends on weekends. But, I am also disheartened when I hear about the repeated stories of innocent lives lost in shootings, whether accidental or intentional. Indeed, our Second Amendment gives us the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. But with this right, we must not forget to discuss our responsibilities as a society to ensure the public safety. While no legislative fix will eliminate the risk of gun violence, I believe that responsible, rational gun owners can take the first step in supporting common-sense gun legislation by looking past the rhetoric and scare-tactics of the gun lobby.
3rd – Cassandra Cannon
As I prepared to write this essay today, news of yet another tragic school shooting was broadcast across the media. Unfortunately, these events have become so common that people don’t even flinch at them anymore. It should be unacceptable to live in an environment where there is a looming threat of a gun-related incident. We have a responsibility to work towards a safer society where people can go about normal activities like attending school, shopping or watching movies, without fear of a mass shooting.
There are already several thousand gun laws and regulations in this country. These directives cover all aspects of guns like manufacturing, possession, and destruction. Obviously these existing laws are not as relevant or effective as they need to be to solve this safety problem. Laws focusing on safety should be considered.
Technology is advancing everywhere, including with guns. More focus should be put on “smart” guns which have built-in safety features that allow the gun to only be activated by its authorized user. The National Rifle Association is opposed to laws requiring this technology, but more pressure needs to be put on them and manufacturers to change their opinion. With laws that require these safety features, we reduce the potential risk of someone other than the gun owner causing harm to themselves or others.
Education is another area where improvements can be made for gun owners. As a new driver, I was required to complete months of training and education requirements before I could obtain my driving license. Potential gun owners should be required to take a gun safety class before acquiring a gun. This training can focus on the importance of gun safety and include proper storage techniques. There are plenty of storage options that will still keep the gun accessible, but make it harder for unauthorized and inexperienced people to access them.
The majority of school shootings have been with family-owned guns that the shooter had access to. “Smart” guns restricting who can use them, and safe storage reducing availability will help reduce potential school shootings, along with other gun-related incidents and accidents. Students of my graduating class will be known as part of the generation that started having lockdown drills in school. I am hopeful that we can also be a part of the movement to make sensible laws to help protect our loved ones and make our society safer.
4th – Emily Marvin – “In a Perfect World”
I remember the day the school my sister and I attended received a potential shooting threat. School wasn’t cancelled, and we were all expected to go. I can’t understand why because, despite being present, schoolwork was the furthest things from our minds. However, this wasn’t the first time I had felt fear about driving in and walking up the steps of the school. Fear stays with students every day. Somedays you barely notice it, but others it is all consuming. There are plenty of voices arguing for stricter gun laws, but government officials still aren’t listening. They are tip toeing around the problems and shielding themselves from making an actual decision with the second amendment. Gun laws currently in place must be fully enforced and stricter gun laws must be created.
The second amendment is extremely outdated and must be revised. The original purpose of the second amendment was to ensure citizens could protect themselves against the government and have the means to overthrow it. This could never happen in the present day. The public would not stand a chance against the resources the United States has. Arms have done nothing but hurt the public, endangering the lives of humans.
My idea of a safer society would be one without guns. A society without access to guns will correspondingly have far fewer causalities due to guns. This is a long time coming, but many other precautions should be put in place until it can be achieved. The legal age to purchase a gun should be raised nationwide. A device that could kill should not be in the hands of anyone who is not old enough to legally rent a car. Additionally, thorough background checks and red flag laws should be developed. This will prevent people who may harm themselves or others from obtaining firearms. Inevitably, a firearm will make its way into schools. When this occurs, students and staff must be well equipped to defend themselves. Schools should have the most up to date security measures and everyone must learn what to do in situations involving a live shooter. Finally, public knowledge around gun safety and mental health should be widely available. Information about how to properly store firearms should become common knowledge, and firearms storage laws should be enforced. The mental health of students and the general public should be addressed and assessed regularly. Individuals not in a sound state of mind commit the largest percentage of gun violence incidents. Keeping people happy and motivated will cause the number of gun violence incidents to plummet.
It’s my hope one day children won’t sit through classes worried for their lives. As a society we must all do better. We should look out for each other and prioritize happy and healthy lives. We cannot ignore the problems we are faced with and hide behind old ideas. The government must drive change through laws and regulations until these ideals are achieved.