Until January of this year, I had never been to Las Vegas, for obvious reasons. The “Sin City” marketing campaign never appealed to me, because despite the claim that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” I knew that’s never really been true.

I landed in Vegas at 10:30 p.m. The only flights I could find from Pennsylvania arrived when the skies would be dark enough to unveil the city in all its glitzy glory. Alas, a sorry-looking lot of passengers waiting to board the delayed plane I had just arrived on sobered the scene. Maniacal gambling machines, making merry, melodious sounds in mockery of these tired people trying to get the heck outta Dodge depressed the city’s debut all the more.

Romantic, old-timey music—I think it was Mel Tormé—accompanied me as I wended my way to ground transportation. My mind, at least, was transported to an era of refinement, until, at the apparition of a sign advertising “Girls’ Night: Thunder from Down Under,” it wandered. Did Mel’s romantic crooning help Vegas visitors recall having let “Australian hunks entertain [them] with their sexy six packs and raunchy dance moves” nostalgically somehow?

Even the baggage claim sign was suggestive, directing passengers to the carousels with an upside-down pair of slim legs wearing red peep-toe heels, matching nail polish, and nothing else. Why? Because Vegas, baby!

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Fast-forward 10 hours. I’m standing in dazzling sunshine. The air is refreshing and clean, in that way only desert air can be. I’m eavesdropping on a pair of brawny men in cargo pants and flannel shirts discussing “the thickest porterhouse you’ve ever seen.” Ahh. Finally something I relate to.

A shuttle bus ride skirting “the Strip” brings me to the Sands Expo Center, where the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show is being held. It’s where more than 60,000 firearms enthusiasts gather each January to peruse seven million pounds worth of wares some 2,400 exhibitors display across 12.5 miles of aisles. That’s 16 acres of gun stuff.

If “toxic masculinity” were to exist anywhere, the dreaded societal poison would surely manifest itself (manfully) at SHOT Show.  

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Piers Morgan, whose views I, at times, cautiously agree with (though he’s very anti-gun), recently lambasted the American Psychological Association’s (APA) release of “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men.”

“[The APA] condemned traditional masculinity as ‘harmful,’” Morgan wrote. “Specifically, it stated that male traits like ‘stoicism’, ‘competitiveness’, ‘achievement’, ‘eschewal of the appearance of weakness’, ‘adventure’, and ‘risk’ are bad and should be expunged…it’s basically saying that it’s wrong, and harmful, to be masculine, to be a man.”

Just as it has systematically done with so many noble institutions of Western culture, the mainstream media’s calculated, widespread attack on men is evidently spurring on an erosion of masculinity.

Research shows modern males are attracted less and less to things deemed to be “manly.” For example, a headline from studyfinds.org in December 2018 exclaims, “Millennial Men Ditching Traditional ‘Masculine’ Values, More Likely to Embrace ‘Emotional Strength.’

“The research, led by the University of British Columbia,” according to the article, “showed that younger men tend to value selflessness, social engagement, and health over traditional male ideals like physical strength and autonomy.”  

Similarly, an article in the British Daily Mail revealed in February that “Baby boomer men HATED the #MeToo-inspired Gillette ad that took aim at toxic masculinity, but the majority of younger men embraced it.”

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The thing is, though, men are naturally physically stronger than women. They’re created to take charge and defend. We know this. Not even some APA guidelines can make this fact untrue. Men are also, according to research compiled by Brave the World, more likely to take risks. They tend to thrive in conflict, while women avoid it. Men are biologically designed to woo, while women are disposed to be pursued (another natural phenomenon the media loves to vilify).

“Psychologist Marquita Williams believes that seeking protectors is a combination of both the genetic and the environmental,” said a 2012 PRNewswire article. “‘Biologically women have the babies, so we inherently seek partners who can protect and nurture us,’ she says. ‘It harkens back to when men were the hunters and gatherers and women were the nesters.’”

In other words, science shows it is the very traits of “toxic masculinity” that enable men to fulfill their innate roles as protectors and providers in society. And being a successful provider and protector is much easier when one has access to the sort of state-of-the-art technologies pertaining to guns, ammo, knives, and survival gear found at SHOT Show.

Man’s intrinsic penchant for such weaponry and related paraphernalia, and the fact that women are hard-wired to seek mates who are interested in using such tools to benefit them and their offspring, was evidenced by the 300-to-one male-to-female ratio (perhaps a slight exaggeration, but not much) of SHOT Show attendees.

These men, so absorbed with the latest advancements in everything from concealed carry Glock pistols to limited edition Case pocket knives to new 5.11 hiking boots and specialized reaming tools, seemed blissfully unaware of the amusing contrast they and their variations of Flat Dark Earth apparel made with the gaudy interior of the Venetian—the exact opposite setting for which their earth-toned getups were designed.

At one point during the show, I asked a group of guys in a long line leading to the Gerber Knife booth what they were waiting for. (It should be noted that Gerber had a tattoo artist on hand throughout the show at its “Tattoo Saloon” to provide people with free—and real!—tattoos of knives.) The men told me they were awaiting the free Gerber giveaways, namely: knives, hats, beer…“guy stuff.” I feigned offense, saying I liked knives and beer. They apologized for typecasting me, but mistaking me for a feminist, did not offer to let me cut the line with them, much to my dismay.

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Ahh, “guy stuff”: means by which males are aided in fulfilling their duty of safeguarding the weak and innocent and providing for their continuation. Yet guy stuff, and guys themselves, are under attack. Gun control, especially in recent months, has been spreading like wildfire across the nation. Every day, a new policy to regulate who can access firearms and gun accessories, where, when, and how, is proposed or enacted.

How insulting—to all Americans, but especially to men—to imply that we aren’t to be trusted with safely owning and operating tools that are often the best means of saving our lives and those of our loved ones.

Politico Magazine reported in 2015 that “[Instances of defensive gun use] are very common, probably more common than criminal uses of guns.” Likewise, the Heritage Foundation reported last year, “Higher rates of gun ownership are not associated with higher rates of violent crime” and “There is no clear relationship between strict gun control legislation and homicide or violent crime rates.”

Nevertheless, real men and their natural instincts are now disparaged as “toxic” and “guy stuff”—especially guns—as “dangerous.” Gun control and “toxic masculinity” have joined forces, waging on two fronts two battles in the war to emasculate, and ultimately control, America.

Earlier this year, USA Today reported that the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that victims of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown can sue the maker of the rifle used in the attack over its advertising.

The problem, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said, is that young men can be succumb to the image of masculinity and military bravado that the ads promise if they buy the semi-auto rifles.

“Consider Your Man Card Reissued,” reads a Bushmaster ad for its AR-15-style gun, the kind used in the Sandy Hook shooting. The ad speaks to a “macho hyper-masculinity,” said one of the attorneys, Katie Mesner-Hage.

This ruling could be disastrous for gun manufacturers. Did the Bushmaster ad say—or even imply—anywhere that possessing a “man card” means cowardly preying on innocent schoolchildren? Quite the opposite, in fact. Gun manufacturers often, as USA Today points out, make use of military themes in their marketing, with images of tough, tactical men doing their duty to serve and protect so Americans can sleep in peace at night. That’s hardly toxic.

The war on guns is also, incidentally, a war on feminism. Samuel Colt, for whom the iconic gun brand is named, famously dubbed the gun “the great equalizer,” and indeed, an average-sized woman is no match for a man, let alone more than one, unless she has a gun. A paper titled “Armed Resistance to Crime” found that in 1995, women accounted for 46 percent of cases of defensive gun use. AmericanGunFacts.com reports that women use guns to defend against sexual abuse 200,000 times a year.

Despite, or perhaps because, of the Left’s war on men and women taking it upon themselves to adopt the traditional manly role of defender, there’s been a huge surge in recent years in the number of women becoming armed. The National Shooting Sports Foundation reported that female gun ownership increased by an astounding 77 percent between 2004 and 2011. The number of female concealed carry permit holders skyrocketed by 200 percent over the last decade.

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The absence of real men and the weapons they are skilled at using to protect the innocent will make the world a less safe place, plain and simple. The coordinated assault on traditional masculinity will erode the fabric of the family and society as a whole, leading to chaos in more ways than one.

The good news is that, at least for now, there are plenty of real men left in America who pay no heed to the toxic insults hurled at them. I sought out a group of men who looked to be the epitome of what progressive gender warriors despise, and asked them what they thought of “toxic masculinity.” It turned out they were SWAT team members and looked at me dumbfounded. Finally, one hazarded a guess: “‘Toxic masculinity’…is that some type of cologne?”

Progressives are picking a fight with the wrong guys. These men are not afraid of sticks or stones, and certainly not labels.

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And so, after a few days of mingling with America’s most tactical men, I left the Tropicana Hotel, its faded white plastic, red pleather, and dated carpet smelling of musty cigarettes, with Cardi B serenading me on my way out at six a.m. (Some people’s early mornings are others’ late, late nights, I suppose.)

Boarding the plane with many of my fellow SHOT Show attendees lightened my disenchanted mood. I felt safe and happy to be among humble, honest, right-thinking examples of what the male species is supposed to embody. Ironically, I was seated beside an extremely effeminate guy, who was flamboyant and gay—in the original sense of the word. The gun nuts, who had about as much in common with him as James “Mad Dog” Mattis has with Elton John, engaged him in pleasant, at times silly banter, and treated him as they would a hunting buddy.

These are good men. And their love of guns, knives, thick steaks, beer, and the latest releases from Realtree doesn’t make them “toxic” at all. To the contrary, everyone I met was a stalwart, solid American male—polite, responsible, dutiful, informed, and thoroughly enjoying themselves, despite being in Vegas.

Teresa Mull is editor of GunpowderMagazine.com. Contact her at [email protected]