The prompt for the 2018 Americans Against Gun Violence National High School Essay Contest was the following statement made by the late Senator Thomas Dodd of Connecticut in a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate on June 11, 1968:

The time has now come that we must adopt stringent gun control legislation comparable to the legislation in force in virtually every civilized country in the world.

The contest was open to all high school students in the United States and its territories. The deadline for students to enter the contest was May 6, 2018. Winners were chosen by more than 30 Americans Against Gun Violence supporters who read and rated the students’ essays blinded to any student identifying information. Americans Against Gun Violence is awarding a total of $15,000 to the twelve winners. Tax-deductible donations to fund the annual essay contest can be made via the Join/Donate page of this website.

Because of the personal attacks to which some high school gun control activists have been subjected in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February of this year, we gave essay contest winners the option of withholding their names and high school affiliations when their essays were published. We are pleased to present the winning essays in the 2018 Americans Against Gun Violence National High School Essay Contest below. We regret, however, that as a result of the toxic political culture that currently exists in our country surrounding the gun control issue, several students did not feel safe in having their names and high school affiliations published. It is part of the mission of Americans Against Gun Violence to change this culture.


First Place Winner ($3,000 award)

(Student Name and High School withheld at student’s request)

Gun Control Lessons from Around the World: The Need for Reform in US Policy and Perspective….Over 1,600 mass shootings since Sandy Hook, the United States has still been unable to pass significant gun control laws….Modernized gun reform laws are long overdue in our nation, and it is time for the US to catch up to the contemporary laws of Canada, Britain, Norway, and countless other countries….Read the full essay


Second Place Winner ($2,500 Award)

Lucas Suter

Placer High School, Auburn, California

The Weight of Firearms….I’m tired of watching the news, seeing sobbing relatives of someone shot to death. I’m tired of knowing that there are thousands more whose sobbing relatives aren’t on television. And I know we are all tired of living with the weight on our shoulders of the millions more who will be killed in our lifetimes….Read the full essay


Third Place Winner ($2,000 Award)

Katherine McCabe

Pioneer High School, Woodland, California

….So this is why we’re walking out. We’re scared, we’re angry, and we want change. ….1,077 people have died in mass shootings since the University of Texas mass shooting in 1966. Legislation hasn’t changed since that fateful day, and now, we’re demanding that it does….Read the full essay


$1,000 Award Winner

(Student Name and High School withheld at students’ request)

And here we are – 650,000 gun related homicides; more than twice that many wounded; 130,000 children and teen lives lost within that 50 year time span

[since the speech by Senator Dodd] – yet, the quote is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago….People who deal with addiction say that they need to hit rock bottom in order to understand that they need to change. The question is, what is the rock bottom to have the US address its gun addiction? Read the full essay


$1,000 Award Winner

(Student Name withheld at students’ request)

Poolesville High School, Poolesville, Maryland

Fifty Years….Fifty years later, the same words are declared but by a different generation. His voice echoes in our hearts and minds as Americans continue to look toward our government and toward each other for the same essential protection that Senator Dodd asserted the urgency of 50 years ago. Read the full essay


$1,000 Award Winner

Mila Opalenik

Amador High School, Sutter Creek, California

Where Is the Controversy? Why is it that with all the information available, people are still uninformed about the success that other countries have had with gun control measures that don’t involve taking away all guns? …Countries like Australia and Canada have had enormous success with gun control and safety measures while still allowing gun ownership, so why have we not followed in their footsteps? Read the full essay


$1,000 Award Winner

Luis Orozco

Lodi High School, Lodi, California

…[Senator Dodd’s quote] remains an inspiration that the fight for stricter gun laws will not go out….I feel very strongly about this movement. This is why I organized my school’s walkout on April 20th. Receiving a detention was a badge of honor for me for expressing my rights and beliefs about gun reform….Read the full essay


$1,000 Award Winner

(Student Name and High School withheld at students’ request)

More of the Same Until We Change…According to a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Medicine, the United States gun homicide rate is 25 times higher than any other high-income country, which is not surprising given that America has the least stringent gun laws in the developed world…America needs to join the modern world and follow the advice of Senator Dodd. “We must adopt stringent gun control legislation,” and we must do it now….Read the full essay


$1,000 Award Winner

(Student Name High School withheld at students’ request)

Why are there two fire drills today, and is that fireworks we hear in the distance? We bustle though the crowd and we are still fine, until we get frantic texts from our friends and family asking if we are alive. It is then that the news reaches us, and the fear for our lives comes upon us. An active shooter is at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School….Read the full essay


$1,000 Award Winner

Anahi Ballesteros

Franklin High School, Stockton, California

I was only 12 as I sat in Math class… but then we hear a gun go off. I remember the sounds, the screams, my teacher calling someone on the intercom….I look down at my feet and I see a bullet next to my pink vans….I tried to erase what happened to me, but then Sandy Hook occurred….and since Sandy Hook, there have been at least 1,607 mass shootings, with at least 1,846 people killed and 6,459 wounded. When will it stop? Read the full essay


$250 Award Winner

(Student Name High School withheld at students’ request)

It’s Time for A Change…No other country comes close to the number of mass shootings seen in America annually. We could blame mental health but other countries have mentally ill people too. We could blame violent movies but other countries have violent movies too. We could blame gang violence but other countries have gangs too….Gun control has been proven to work in other countries; It’s time for the United States to make a change….Read the full essay


$250 Award Winner

Taylor Motley

Mountain View High School, Mesa, Arizona

Why Do I Have To March For My Life?….We have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours planning, organizing, phone-banking, emailing, et cetera, to mobilize action to keep our voices heard….It is sad that a bunch of high schoolers have to do this….Our legislators should have protected us long ago with actual gun control measures – protected us before we had to learn how to act dead so we aren’t the next victim in a mass shooting….Read the full essay