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Hawaii’s Young Guns

Meet Honolulu’s new generation of gun owners.


(page 3 of 5)

Neal Jensen

Photo: Elyse Butler Mallams

Age: 30
From: Aiea
Occupation: Government contractor
Political leanings: Independent

When former U.S. Marine Neal Jensen left the military after six years in 2009, he hadn’t planned on ever buying his own gun. In fact, he had complicated feelings about firearms. 

“Out of everyone I know, I’m the most afraid of guns,” he says. “As a former military guy, I know the damage they can do.”

After a few months as a civilian, though, he and his girlfriend (now wife) decided to take the state-required National Rifle Association gun safety course together. They did it on a “whim,” mostly out of a desire to have a gun at home for self-protection. He ended up buying an AR-15, which he had become familiar with during his time as a Marine.

For Jensen, an ‘Aiea resident, his motivation for owning guns has since changed. He was at first a little hesitant to talk about it. 

“We started to talk about what life would be like in the event of a worst-case scenario,” Jensen says. “What if we had to hunt for our own food? What if we had to survive long term in society with no laws and no one to protect us?”

He admits, a little self-consciously, that the ideas sound like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie. Jensen is not alone in his fears, either. A whole movement of American gun owners, including some Honolulu residents who declined to participate in our feature, fall into the “prepper” category. Harkening back to the Cold War era, when many Americans built bomb shelters and school kids ducked under desks during drills, preppers fear a doomsday scenario that will require them to take up arms and protect themselves.

“We’re both rational people. We consider that scenario to be absolutely remote,” Jensen says. “It’s kind of, hope for the best and plan for the worst.”

Still, Jensen is a fairly practical gun owner. He meticulously researches guns and buys them only if they will fill a specific need. He and his wife keep their guns locked in a safe that’s bolted to the floor, but they’ve talked about what they would do if they had children (perhaps move the guns out of the house?). 

He’s also resourceful. Guns and ammunition are expensive to begin with, but Hawaii’s isolation from the Mainland makes prices even higher. Prices got so high at one point that he began to research how to make ammo himself. 

“It’s a whole other aspect of gun culture, learning how to do handloads,” Jensen says. “It’s much, much cheaper. It’s also really fascinating.”

What do people think of him being a gun owner?

“Most people who know I’m prior military expect me to be all about guns. But even when I was in the military, I wasn’t that into it,” Jensen says. “I work, I have family responsibilities—it’s not like firearms consume all of my time.”

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Honolulu Magazine May 2019
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