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The 2002 Alexander Hamilton Second Amendment Student Writing Competition

The Violence Policy Center (VPC), a national non-profit educational organization that conducts research and public education on firearms violence and works to develop policies to reduce gun-related death and injury, announces the 2002 Alexander Hamilton Second Amendment Student Writing Competition for student scholarship relating to the contemporary debate over the meaning of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The prize for the winning entry is $3,000. The VPC will work to assist the winner in publishing his or her article in an appropriate journal.

The prize is named for Alexander Hamilton, one of the framers of the Constitution and a co-author of the Federalist Papers. Hamilton identified the differences between a well-regulated militia and a widely armed populace. He also served as the first Secretary of the Treasury, the cabinet agency which now has primary responsibility for enforcing federal gun control laws through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). The VPC supports health and safety regulation of firearms as consumer products under the authority of the Department of the Treasury. Lastly, Hamilton was himself a victim of handgun violence. He was shot with a pistol by Aaron Burr in an 1804 duel.

The prize will be awarded for the best article, essay, or law review note critically examining the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in United States v. Emerson, No. 99-10331, 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 22386 (October 16, 2001), in light of judicial precedent and historical and legal scholarship on the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In preparing the submission, contestants should consider, among other things, the following sources and authorities:


United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939)

United States v. Haney, No. 00-6129, 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 19324 (10th Cir. Aug. 29, 2001)

Quilici v. Village of Morton Grove, 695 F.2d 261 (7th Cir. 1982), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 863 (1983)

Vietnamese Fishermen's Association v. Knights of Ku Klux Klan, 543 F. Supp. 198 (S.D. Tex. 1982).

Other sources:

The Violence Policy Center, Shot Full of Holes: Deconstructing John Ashcroft's Second Amendment (July 2001) (available at

Symposium on the Second Amendment: Fresh Looks, 76 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 1 (Carl T. Bogus ed., 2000), forthcoming as The Second Amendment in Law and History (The New Press, November 2001)

David Yassky, The Second Amendment: Structure, History, and Constitutional Change, 99 Mich. L. Rev. 588 (2000)

Saul Cornell, Commonplace or Anachronism: The Standard Model, the Second Amendment, and the Problem of History in Contemporary Constitutional Theory, 16 Const. Commentary 221 (1999)

Carl T. Bogus, The Hidden History of the Second Amendment, 31 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 155 (1998)

Garry Wills, A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government (1999)

The following rules apply:

1. Any student regularly enrolled in any accredited law school, graduate or undergraduate honors program in history or a related discipline is eligible to enter. Submission of 5 copies of the paper and a completed entry form (available online at constitutes entry. Entries must be postmarked no later than Monday, June 3, 2002.

2. The cover page of the paper shall include the title and the author's name, the current mailing address, e-mail address, and telephone number and shall be attached only to the original essay. The author's name should appear only on the cover page and the entry form, which can be downloaded at The title and page number must appear at the top of each page of the paper.

3. All papers shall be the original, unpublished work of the individual student, but may have been prepared in connection with or as part of a course assignment or law review competition assignment. Students are permitted to receive the normal guidance of faculty or peers provided the final product is properly represented as the author's work.

4. Papers should be typed, double-spaced, on 8� by 11 inch white paper, and a maximum of 50 pages in length. Citations, footnotes, and endnotes must be in accord with the current edition of A Uniform System of Citation for law students and the Chicago Manual of Style for students in other disciplines.

5. Papers will be evaluated based on the following criteria: quality and clarity of writing; depth and rigor of the analysis and reasoning; the use of historical and judicial materials in a manner that is contextual, accurate, and thorough; and fealty to the topic.

6. Papers will be evaluated, and the $3,000 first prize awarded, in the sole discretion of a panel of judges comprised of legal scholars, historians, and VPC staff. The judges, in their discretion, reserve the right to award second- and third-place prizes depending upon the volume and quality of the entries received. All decisions of the judges are final.

7. The VPC reserves the right to screen entries and to limit the number of papers submitted to the judges for final decision. The VPC also reserves the right not to award a prize, should there be no entry that, in the discretion of the judges, merits the award.

8. The winner will be contacted by the VPC and information about the winning entry will be posted on the VPC website,

9. Submissions will not be returned to the authors.

10. Submission of a paper grants the VPC the right to publish the winning paper(s) in a journal of its choice. Should the VPC decline to exercise this right, the author may proceed with publication elsewhere. The VPC will work to assist the author throughout the submission and publication process by mutual agreement of the VPC and the author.

11. Entries must be postmarked no later than Monday, June 3, 2002, and sent to the Alexander Hamilton Second Amendment Student Writing Competition, Violence Policy Center 1140 19th Street, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036.

12. Any questions should be sent to the same address, or via e-mail at referencing the competition.