So-called “stand your ground” laws have attracted a lot of attention in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida recently.
Critics of the law have politicized this event by simplifying a complex legal situation most people don’t understand and reducing it to the emotional equivalent of a sound bite. Of course it’s terrible that a teenager was shot, but that George Zimmerman was charged with murder recently proves my point, especially after all the nonsensical hysteria about stand your ground laws, which ironically quieted down after the indictment. That law, it seems, isn’t exactly the get-out-of-jail-free card certain political factions made it out to be after all.
But stand your ground laws aren’t what need defending here; it’s the Second Amendment itself.
I have written a great deal lately about being a good American and a good citizen. In my former columns on this subject, I’ve discussed our notions and the roles of government, media and the First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth amendments in our lives. The much misunderstood and maligned Second Amendment needs a little air time too.
I wish I didn’t have to repeat this, but sadly our collective modern ignorance requires it: The Bill of Rights was written not to grant you rights, but to protect those you already have by virtue of being alive. Put another way, the government doesn’t grant you rights, you’re born with them, and the Bill of Rights simply protects them legally from government infringement.
The founders, American philosophers and the Supreme Court settled long ago the idea that our rights follow us wherever we may go. Your First Amendment right to free speech doesn’t stop when you leave your home or when you’re not in a ridiculous “free-speech zone.” Your Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches doesn’t end when you step foot off your property and go for a drive.
Likewise, the Second Amendment doesn’t evaporate outside your home either, which is the whole point of stand your ground laws after all: a reassertion of something we already knew, that your right to defend your life goes with you everywhere.
Anti-gunners argue that the Second Amendment is an anachronism, that we don’t need it anymore. I can understand why this misconception exists. After all, the media doesn’t report on self-defense shootings very often since they're not as sexy as murder, and cases where bad guys are scared off by citizens with guns usually go unreported anyway.
Anti-gun bias in reporting news plays a role in forgetting about the Second Amendment too. For example, when those two college students at the Appalachian School of Law subdued their school shooter, of the hundreds of reports on the incident made, only a handful mentioned the students who stopped the attack were actually armed. That seems like a critical fact to forget about, and such things aren’t uncommon in the media.
The truth is, though, people need and invoke the Second Amendment every day. The Department of Justice estimates that approximately 1 million crimes are prevented every year by righteous citizens merely brandishing a firearm. A similar University of Florida study suggests that number may be as high as 3 million crimes prevented. Either way, both numbers dwarf the murder and violent crime rate by a massive margin.
Bigger events mark the need for the Second Amendment too. Martin Luther King is famous for his Ghandi-esque philosophy of nonviolence, which he used to great effect. But what the history books rarely tell you about is the band of armed men who followed King and many of his demonstrations to ensure that they stayed nonviolent. Yes, the civil rights movement was protected, in part, by people with guns. Read the history book “The Spirit and the Shotgun” by Simon Wendt if you don’t believe me.
Then there was the McMinn County War in Tennessee. Election fraud was rampant and the entire political and legal system was corrupted there. The federal government wouldn’t act, so the citizens literally confronted their local government, armed with every gun they could find — plus some dynamite — and instigated a little revolution in Athens, Tenn. When the smoke cleared, the rule of law had been restored.
How about the ad hoc citizen militias that formed after Hurricane Katrina to prevent the looting, rape and murder occurring all over the city? Positive examples of the Second Amendment are legion, and ignorance of them, while understandable given the efforts to keep you ignorant, is no excuse for castigating one of the most critical rights a person has.
The mark of a good citizen is defending all the natural rights that all humans have, regardless of one’s personal dislike of those rights. Don’t let others take advantage of your ignorance and your emotions to distract you from your duties as a citizen. Besides, you have no right to tell someone else what their rights are or aren’t anyway.
Want to be an American? Support the Second Amendment: It’s quite literally the only right that can protect itself and all the rest.