9/11 September 11 Pentagon Attack
A helicopter flies over the Pentagon in Washington as smoke billows over the building on Sept. 11, 2001, after a hijacked airliner crashed into the west side of the building, killing 184 people. (AP Photo/Heesoon Yim, File)

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The fight against evil is a fundamental, indeed a profound guiding principle of our nation. It informs our religion, education and popular culture. But as the Zen expression reminds us, the map is not the territory. It’s one thing to know about evil. It’s another to see it. To feel it.

Like Pearl Harbor before it, the 9/11 attacks were said to have roused the “slumbering giant” on a visceral level. As Americans watched previously unimaginable death and destruction on live TV, they confronted the fact that evil can appear out of the clear blue sky. Literally. By coming face-to-face with a death cult endlessly aspiring to destroy American liberty, right down to the right to life, we learned that the wider world was full of those who wanted us dead.

But this attack was personal. As Americans imagined what it would be like to be in one of those doomed planes, or sitting at a desk in an office when Hell descended from the skies, we realized that every single one of us is a target for evil.

That realization didn’t trigger America’s recent gun rights restoration. Florida’s “shall-issue” concealed carry law of 1987 got that ball rolling. But the 9/11 attacks changed the tenor of the discourse surrounding the right to keep and bear arms. The atrocities created a wider context, a bedrock understanding that subtly influenced — and continues to influence — the “debate” over gun rights. And it is this:

No matter how strong the antis’ argument about gun rights’ lack of social utility, no matter how unpopular gun rights may be in Democrat-controlled urban cities and states, not even the most diehard gun control advocate can argue that non-negotiable life-threatening evil doesn’t exist. Not after 9/11.

And so here we are, 20 years later, looking back at the horror, still trying to make sense of it.

Truth be told, the 9/11 attacks don’t make sense — not for anyone who cherishes human life. They can only be explained by the simple fact that there are people ready, willing, and able to slaughter innocent life to achieve their goals. Which is why this country has Second Amendment gun rights protection baked into its Constitution. And why so many Americans exercise their right to keep and bear arms.


This article was originally published in 2016.

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