The Bill of Rights enumerates some of the most important principles that guide daily life in America, shapes international perception of our country, and shows the level of freedom allowed to our citizens. The Second Amendment exemplifies the principles behind our country's formation more than any of these others.
The Second Amendment is written in very simple language, though its interpretation is hotly contested. It reads:
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.
Without a doubt, our rights to freedom of religion and a free press and our protection against unreasonable search and seizure are also vital to American life, and it is true that the average citizen may call upon these rights more often than the Second Amendment. However, the Second Amendment is still the most important right guaranteed by the Constitution.
The Second Amendment is the embodiment of America's founding values. It is based on the revolutionary idea that a society is not beholden to the will of a government, that the "security of a free state" cannot be weakened by the federal government, and that a government must be sensitive to the will of the populace. It states that a governed people are capable of taking matters into their own hands should tyranny grow suddenly, even at the highest levels of government.
In the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, gun control (or, more specifically, regulations on self-defense shooting) has once again become a target for debate. Trayvon Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, has recently announced her plan to fight against "Stand Your Ground" self-defense laws.
The general alternative to Stand Your Ground laws is the "duty to retreat" law, where the victim of any violent act has to take reasonable measures to back away from the action before shooting. Many people ignore the fact that Stand Your Ground laws do not apply in the case of a physical altercation, like the one in which Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin were engaged before Martin was shot, but the campaign to fight Stand Your Ground laws has continued to make news and is even supported by prominent celebrities like Stevie Wonder.
Stand Your Ground laws are the reasonable legal outcome of the Second Amendment. Though the Bill of Rights is understandably silent on the specific legislation, the ideas behind the Second Amendment, that citizens have the right to protect themselves from harm without relying on the state for personal defense, fall in direct line with Stand Your Ground laws. If you are legally able to shoot to defend yourself, why would you have a duty to escape conflict, possibly putting yourself at greater physical risk? If you have a right to defend your life and property, then why is it rational to require an armed citizen to risk either or both? Rest assured, if someone is shot during an alleged robbery, the case will be very intently examined by the American court system.
The right to own and bear guns in defense of your life and property, perhaps one of the most fiercely debated over the past several decades, is vital to America's survival and identity as the most free nation on Earth. One of the most important powers the American people hold is the power to defend ourselves against criminals without relying on the state, repel invasions with only the power in our home, and, in the most extreme of cases, defend ourselves from a government that seeks to overpower its formerly free populace.