Post 9/11 World Views

According to Dave Hardy, there has been a sea change in world-view among the populace in regards to gun control over the past decade, and he thinks 9/11 might have something to do with it:

Perhaps on 9/11, we learned to fight back? Or perhaps, as my friend Gale Norton (formerly my boss, and then Sec. of Interior) pointed out, in the Cold War we knew that a gun was no defense against the menace of a nuclear attack, but in 9/11 had to reflect that if one person or pilot on each plane had had a pistol in their pocket, the only deaths would have been those of the terrorists?

I think there’s always been an strong undercurrent in American culture that personal security is the responsibility of the person, rather than the state. Certainly there is much debate on the specifics, but one can point out that Bernhard Goetz was acquitted in the most anti-gun jurisdiction in the country after shooting four would be robbers on the New York Subway, with what Mayor Bloomberg today would be happy to call an “illegal gun”.

On a personal level, I can tell you I never had much interest in carrying a firearm until 9/11. I knew it was possible, and not difficult to get a license. I knew how to shoot. But I lived in a low crime area, and didn’t really think it was worth the hassle of getting the permit, and having to deal with carrying a pistol on my person.

Post 9/11, my attitude changed. I couldn’t exactly say why at the time. I mean, I knew that the odds of being a victim of a terrorist attack are slim, and I knew that terrorists often use methods where a firearm would be of no use, but thinking about the folks on Flight 93, who were expecting an uneventful flight to San Francisco, and certainly didn’t expect to become soldiers in defense of their country, much less give their lives in the process, I had to ask myself if I was up to that. I suspect a lot of Americans asked themselves the same question.

I decided shortly thereafter to become more proficient on pistol, and apply for a License to Carry. Once the awkward phase was over with, I discovered carrying wasn’t really the burden I had once thought it was. In fact, it’s not a burden at all. Any more than carrying a cell phone and a wallet is a burden.

Why did American attitudes towards guns change after 9/11? Because on 9/11, everything the government put in place to protect us failed. The only thing, only thing, that worked on that day was thirty three ordinary citizens who decided to take it upon themselves to defend their country. The only thing that worked was the citizen militia. And I suspect that fact was not lost on the American people, even if it wasn’t entirely conscious. 9/11 was a message, a loud message, that the government can’t protect us, and that when the shit hits the fan, it is up to us to stand up and do something.

As much as some Americans prefer to bury their heads in sand and pretend that the world is a happy place where there aren’t people who desperately want to kill us, most know better, and at least on some level that’s made them change their attitudes on guns, among other things. Firearms are, in our culture, a symbol of self-reliance and liberty, which is why we all get so passionate about them. The gun control debate has never really been about the guns themselves. It’s been about whether or not we trust the government to be the only entity with the means to look after our wellbeing, security and liberty. Our founding fathers thought that was a fool’s errand, and wanted to ensure the population was able to remain armed, as a check against the government. The fringes of the political spectrum hate that idea, but I’m glad to see more Americans returning to it. It’s just a shame that it had to take a national calamity to bring it about.

One thought on “Post 9/11 World Views”

  1. Thank you for that very elegant piece of logic. Too bad it isn’t required reading.

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