The Second Amendment of the Constitution 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.” This amendment meant very little to me growing up in a small town on Long Island. I thought the right to bear arms meant that people in the “olden days” had the right to hunt for food to feed their families. Then three years ago, while attending Pepperdine University, I heard a professor, Roger McGrath, speak about the Second Amendment in a very different way. After class, I told Dr. McGrath that I was curious about how he came to his understanding of the Second Amendment. Delighted that he inspired one of his students, he provided me with a brief bibliography of books and articles and sent me to find out for myself why the Second Amendment is an essential part of the Bill of Rights.

After extensive reading, I soon realized that the Second Amendment is not an antiquated right pertaining solely to hunting on the frontier. The first hard lesson I learned made it clear that the Bill of Rights does not give people rights. The first ten amendments protect the rights that the people already have—their inalienable rights—from infringement by the federal government. The Second Amendment states only that the government cannot violate the right to keep and bear arms. For the Founding Fathers the principal purpose of the Second Amendment was to guard against the development of tyrannical government. Additionally, the right to bear arms is also needed for personal protection against criminal activity.

I am a single 23-year-old graduate student, and the right to own a firearm is essential for my self-defense. While growing up, I always had my father at home to protect me—and I felt safe. However, when I went away to college, I soon realized that if I did not want to be easy prey for some mugger or rapist, I had to learn to protect myself Although I am an athlete and quite physically fit, I am not capable of overpowering most males. Having run track, I used to cling to the naive belief that I could outrun an attacker. However, losing a few races against several of my male friends who were not regular runners enlightened me. Men and women are different: the average female cannot outrun the average male.

Once I decided that owning a gun was the only way to protect myself effectively, I realized that I knew nothing about guns, let alone how to shoot them. Moreover, I was afraid of them. Then, I heard about a woman, Paxton Quigley, who taught self-defense and gun-safety classes to women. I immediately signed up and attended. I found women at these classes who had a similar fear of guns but who also knew the importance of self-protection. I soon became aware that a gun is a useful but dangerous tool that should be respected but not feared.

After I realized the importance of the Second Amendment, I began discussing my findings with classmates and professors. Their responses ranged from ignorance about the Second Amendment to thinking that I was part of some militia group. Not many of them allowed me to explain my position.

Several of my peers said I was wrong to believe that I needed to protect myself with a gun because the police would protect me. Unfortunately, the police cannot be at every street corner, parking garage, and house to provide protection for every individual. Even if the police are called in an emergency, it usually takes 15 to 20 minutes for them to arrive at the scene, which is long enough for the attacker to commit his crime and take off.

A few people suggested that I use “less offensive” weapons, such as a knife, pepper spray, or even karate. However, these weapons are often more dangerous to the victim. A knife is a weapon that requires close contact, and this creates the potential for a bigger and stronger attacker to take the knife away and to use it on his victim. Pepper spray is also a close-contact weapon that often only aggravates the attacker and makes him more vicious. Karate is the ultimate close-contact weapon and, like all martial arts, requires years of hard training. In the end, none of these weapons is as effective as a gun.

For an average female like me, a gun provides the best defense. A gun is an equalizer between large and small, strong and weak, men and women. I have an inalienable right to self-defense, and without this right, I cannot consider myself a free person. Even though I have never been attacked and hope that I never am, I will be prepared. I have often been told that chances are, even if I have a gun when attacked, I will not be able to use it or that the gun may be used against me. However, studies indicate that just the opposite is the case, that those who are armed and fight back suffer less severe injuries or are less likely to be killed than those who do not defend themselves. I have made my choice. I shall not weakly submit.