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John Hempel:
2013 Winner
Bayside High School

John Hempel

Winning Essay

The 2nd amendment of the Bill of Rights states that “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.” There are many conflicting opinions regarding the intent and relevancy of this statement. However, my belief is that the intent from our founding fathers was twofold; not only did they want to allow citizens to be able to protect their country from invaders, they also wanted to allow citizens to be able to protect themselves against a corrupt government. When speaking of the 2nd amendment, Thomas Jefferson stated that “In a nation governed by the people themselves, the possession of arms to defend their nation against usurpers within and without was deemed absolutely necessary.” Therefore, we can believe that the 2nd amendment was included to protect citizens from the threats of the inside, as well as the outside. However, some people take issue with the wording of the amendment; they believe that, since we don’t have militias anymore, the entire amendment is irrelevant to today’s society. However, the meaning of the word militia has changed its meaning over the last 200 or so years. According to George Mason, the man who refused to sign the constitution because a bill of rights wasn’t included, the militia is “the whole people, except for few public officials”. James Madison said that “A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained in arms, is the best most natural defense of a free country.” Therefore, even though the wording is ambiguous by today’s standards, people back then were pretty clear on what the Bill of Rights meant, and what its intent was.

Speaking personally, I always hated the teachers that would punish the whole class for the actions of one student. Most of the other students in the class were not involved in this kid’s unruly behavior; many of us were just as annoyed as the teacher was. Nevertheless, we all got extra HW because of that one kid. The only thing this accomplished was us hating that kid for the rest of the day. Many people, including me, realize that this is faulty logic; everyone shouldn’t be punished because one or two kids did something wrong. However, many gun control laws are passed on this exact premise! This was described in detail during the Wilson vs. State of Arkansas case of 1878. Chancy Wilson was arrested and convicted for carrying an army grade six shooter in his jacket. However, Wilson believed that his 2nd amendment rights were being infringed upon, so he appealed the judge’s decision. During this case, Chancy Wilson’s lawyer made a riveting testimony for his client; he stated that “To prohibit a citizen from wearing or carrying a war arm . . . is an unwarranted restriction upon the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. If cowardly and dishonorable men sometimes shoot unarmed men with army pistols or guns, the evil must be prevented by the penitentiary and gallows, and not by a general deprivation of constitutional privilege.” While I don’t believe that the process of hanging men in the gallows is going to return, the point is very well received; to punish the masses for the misguided actions of a few is ludicrous! Therefore, I don’t believe that the right to “keep and bear arms” should be infringed upon, under any circumstance; rather, I believe that any individual who uses weapons in such a manner should be given the harshest punishment feasible for their crime. Rather than take away what it rightly ours because you don’t believe we can use it correctly, show us the right way to use our weapons, and then impose strict ramifications on use who continue to use their weapons irresponsibly. Doesn’t it sound a lot better to punish one person for their actions then to punish millions of people for the actions of one man?

I firmly believe that every American citizen should be allowed to purchase, own and carry any weapon that they choose. As I mentioned earlier, back in the 1700s, the word militia was used to indicate an armed civilian body; therefore, the letter of the law SPECIFICALLY STATES that the right of civilians to keep and bear arms will not be infringed upon. I find it sick and twisted that we live in a society that prides itself on its “freedom” and “ethics”, while more and more of our basic rights are taken away every day. How much longer will it be until the 2nd amendment is wiped out completely? If or when that happens, what’s to stop the government from infringing on our other rights under the pretense of safety? What most people don’t seem to understand is that the 2nd amendment is the most important right afforded to us. This is due to the fact that without an armed populace, there is nothing stopping an elected official from overturning our democratic society and establishing a fascist regime; the threat of the people overthrowing a corrupt government forces our elected officials to be subservient to us and abide by our rules. After all, we don’t work for the government; the government works for us. Therefore, we have the right to scrap our government at any time if we feel that they are becoming tyrannical. The crazy belief that our inalienable rights should remain as such is why I believe that citizens should be allowed to own guns.

As you’ve probably realized from reading my essay thus far, I believe that our government should not be afforded the privilege of enacting any law concerning gun ownership, for many of the reasons I’ve mentioned earlier. If the general populace isn’t armed, the government has no reason to remain loyal to them, and can take away as many of their rights as they please, under the threat of violence. One blatant example of this would be the actions of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party, commonly known as the Nazi Party. Once public favor started to shift against their regime, they made sure that the only people that could own guns were government officials. This allowed Adolf Hitler’s personal army to burn down thousands of synagogues and Jewish businesses and then round up the survivors, all with little to no resistance.

Civilian gun ownership is just something that makes sense, and the founding fathers put it in the Bill of Rights for a reason. After all, if the only people that are armed are government officials, who do you think is in charge?



Well, one of the hardest things to do is talk about oneself, but I’m going to give it my best shot. Hey there! My name is John Hempel, and I am currently a junior at Bayside High School. My main interest is music, in particular jazz guitar. I live in Whitestone, and have two brothers, Brian and Thomas, and a sister, Lyndsey. I am quite interested in history, and this is one of the things that made it easy to write this essay.

I am very opinionated, and I love to stay informed about current events. However, this does not mean that I am stubborn or “set in my ways”; if new and compelling information comes my way about an issue, I will reevaluate my stance on said issue. Gun control is one of a few issues, however, for which I have not heard any compelling evidence to back the claim of the opposition; since I have such a strong opinion on the topic, I was able to write with passion that came from the heart, and it really showed in the final result.

My life is undetermined at this point, as is the case for most people my age. I dream to get a job involving music before I graduate from high school, so college wouldn’t have to be an inevitability. However, this is not likely; that is why I am so grateful and honored to have received such a generous endowment from such a quality organization. No matter what path I choose to go down in life, I will always make sure to try my best, because, in the end, what more can you do?


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