Joe Hayden, a journalism professor at the University of Memphis, wrote a commentary piece for Salon.com recently that fretted over the prevalence of “Neils” in society.
Who is Neil? Well, in the parlance of a 2015 Harvard Study, he is a “Super Gun Owner.”
Or, as Hayden explains, “I once lived next door to a guy in Memphis who owned more than a hundred firearms, some of which were strewn around his two-bedroom house and even lying on the kitchen counter. I saw them when he asked me to come over one afternoon to help him move his 700-pound gun safe.”
Hayden maintains that “Neil” was a “nice guy” but he had two big dogs, one of which he couldn’t control, and that Hayden worried between all the guns and the dogs, Neil might get someone hurt.
“The fact is, there are a lot of Neils in America — white guys in a near-constant state of fear about their personal safety,” Hayden continued. “And rather than being merely pitiful, guys like Neil are actually dangerous.”
Hayden breaks down the Neil archetype even more:
They’re the hyper-armed neighbors with itchy trigger fingers, who are convinced they’ll be the victims of a home invasion; who treat any Black or brown person as an imminent threat; who see foreign terrorists behind every bush; who believe the government is trying to poison them, plant a chip inside them, or take away their hunting rifles; who think that crime is far worse than it is and on the verge of spilling into outright anarchy.
Hayden concludes by saying Neils should be chastised through mockery and ridicule for their “bad behavior,” but because their fear and anxiety make them “dangerous” and “unstable,” one should approach with caution.
I’ll agree with Hayden insofar as, what we call, “mall ninjas” exist. We’ve all heard stories of the bro who buys a tactical vest, a SEAL Team SOG Knife and a bug-out bag and, suddenly, starts acting like he’s a Tier-1 commando. He is the same guy who initially spends all his money on gear and none of it on training.
But I’d also argue that as a community, we do a pretty good job of policing our own and calling out these dudes for their cosplay. The result, I think, is a lot these guys dial back the bravado and begin to take gun ownership seriously. That is, fewer hours playing “Call Of Duty” or “Grand Theft Auto,” and more time under the posthumous tutelage of Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper.
Where this transition really manifests itself is at the range. Considerate and careful instruction from ROs and fellow shooters goes a long way to ironing out the bad habits of the overzealous newbie. “Neil” soon recognizes that it is mastery of the unsexy parts of shooting that make one a “badass,” things like stance, grip, target acquisition, trigger control, breathing — all stuff that has zero to do with tacticool fashion and the latest and greatest hardware.
What I’m getting at is these guys aren’t the threat Hayden makes them out to be. Most grow out of the mall ninja phase. Most become upstanding citizens because the prevailing ethos of the 2A community is one of personal responsibility. Those who buck this norm and continually act irresponsibly are abruptly ostracized. Or in extreme instances, they become candidates for the Darwin award.
Our collective tolerance for chuckleheads is very low because it has to be. The future of our right to keep and bear arms depends on us keeping our house in order. Bad optics leads to bad policymaking.
To this end, we know that media types, celebrities, and politicians love to point to the White mall ninja as the rule and not the exception. In fact, that was the purpose of Hayden’s commentary, to paint all gun owners as trigger-happy scaredy cats. It’s an effective tactic that the anti-gun machine uses to disparage gun owners in the minds of the non-gun-owning public. But anyone the least bit familiar with the gun community knows that’s not the case.
Even the numbers bear this out. The notion that we are a monolith of racist, xenophobic, sexist White males is total B.S. Does Hayden know, for example, that forty-six percent of new gun owners since Jan. 2019 are women, according to the 2021 National Firearms Survey? That’s roughly 3.5 million new gun-owning gals!
Gun purchases by minorities also skyrocketed over that same period. Purchases by African Americans jumped 56 percent in 2020 from 2019, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association. Not to mention the fact that the biggest pro-gun voice on social media for the past decade is a gentleman by the name of Colion Noir. Spoiler alert: He isn’t White!
What’s driving the jump in sales is quite simple. People of all colors and sexes want autonomy over their personal safety. They’ve recognized that the government is not always gonna be there in their time of need.
During the George Floyd riots — I mean, the “mostly peaceful protests” — when all hell was breaking loose, cops were overwhelmed with calls, and response times ballooned from good guys with guns being minutes away to hours away. People witnessed this and many did a gut-check: Am I adequately prepared for such a situation? Can I competently defend myself and my family?
Clearly, in the wake of the unmitigated chaos, millions thought they needed to improve their personal defense posture. And while this may come with some growing pains, empowering people to embrace fundamental rights is never going to result in the wholesale destruction of the Republic, despite what gun controllers maintain.
What will, however, lead to our demise is tyranny. Our Founders and Framers knew this, that’s why we have a 2A in our Constitution. Many on the Left, and I bet Hayden is among them, chuckle at the thought of our government breaking bad. Like, it’s a total impossibility in this day and age. Apart from totally ignoring all of history (MKUltra, Japanese internment camps, Tuskeegee Experiment, Extraconstitutional surveillance of citizens), they aren’t paying attention.
Why does the CDC believe it has the power to issue eviction moratoriums. Why does the ATF believe it has the power to criminalize lawfully owned gun parts and accessories? Why does the Biden Administration believe it has the power to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations and tests for private businesses?
Point is, a small band of wily mall ninjas are not a grave danger to this country, especially when compared to the relative threat we face from unchecked bureaucratic authoritarianism.
Put another way, if there ever comes a time in our future when certain Americans are forced to board a train for “noncompliance,” it won’t be because a few wannabe Rambos were able to buy firearms. It’ll be because functionaries of the Left convinced enough people to sacrifice their personal rights and freedoms at the altar of public safety.