“The first shot was terrifying,” Colion Noir told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “The second shot—I fell in love.”
“Colion Noir” is actually the nom de guerre for NRA TV’s top provocateur of the moment, a 34-year-old only child of Nigerian immigrants (real name: Collins Iyare Idehen Jr.); he was recalling his blood-pumping excitement at the loss of his firearms virginity with a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol.
“My friend randomly asked if I wanted to go out to the range. Initially I hesitated,” he confided, though he declined to identify the friend. “It was more out of fear. But I decided to go ahead and step outside of my comfort zone.”
Noir went on: “Why was I scared of what essentially is an inanimate object? It was silly of me to be terrified of what is basically a piece of plastic and metal… I didn’t come to it by way of politics; it was very organic. I was more fascinated with the science involved, the physics, and the idea that this was a controlled explosion.”
That was a decade ago, before Idehen reinvented himself as Noir (a cheeky moniker he chose as he started posting pro-gun videos on YouTube so as not to expose friends and relatives to online abuse).
These days, the bullet-necklace-wearing Noir is giving National Rifle Association rabble-rouser Dana Loesch a run for her money in the outrageous claims department, raising hackles with a purposefully tendentious video in which he mocked the traumatized students of Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for organizing last Saturday’s “March of Life” in support of more restrictive gun regulations.
“To all the kids from Parkland getting ready to use your First Amendment to attack everyone else’s Second Amendment at your march on Saturday,” the black T-shirted Noir declared direct to camera, “I wish a hero like Blaine Gaskill [the armed sheriff’s deputy credited with preventing further carnage during a March 20 Maryland high school shooting that killed two] had been at Marjory Douglas High School last month because your classmates would still be alive and no one would know your names, because the media would have completely and utterly ignored your story, the way they ignored his…”
Some saw Noir’s video as disrespectful to teenagers who witnessed 17 of their friends and teachers die horrifically Feb. 14 under the withering fire of an AR-15 assault rifle.
“I don’t take any of it back,” Noir insisted to The Daily Beast. “They think any critique is disrespectful; any type of challenge to their narrative or ideology is considered an attack.”
Of course, the same can be said for the NRA, which has refused to acknowledge any role that the proliferation of firearms (more than 300 million in the U.S.) plays in gun violence, or to consider even the slightest adjustments in firearms regulations—universal background checks for all gun sales, for instance, a measure supported by a majority of its membership—while deploying rhetoric so extreme and rife with conspiracy theories that it frequently flirts with absurdity.
A typical example from Wayne La Pierre, the NRA’s overwrought executive vice president: “Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals. These are perils we are sure to face — not just maybe. It’s not paranoia to buy a gun. It’s survival. It’s responsible behavior, and it’s time we encourage law-abiding Americans to do just that.”
The coming November midterm elections might very well represent a hard check on the organization’s political influence if, as widely predicted, Democrats oust the NRA-supporting Republican majority and retake the House of Representatives.
Of the Parkland teenagers’ anti-NRA campaigning, Noir, a member of the Texas bar who doubles as a personal injury attorney when not hosting shows for NRA TV, said: “I come from an intellectual background, so I understand the concept of peer review. If you’re going to put an idea out there, it’s going to be critiqued. It is going to be assessed by somebody else who might have the same or differing opinion than you. Just because you put kids in front of it doesn’t mean you cannot critique or assess an idea that will have the effect of driving policy that will affect my right as an American.”
Exercising his right as American under the Second Amendment, Noir has acquired an arsenal ranging from handguns to rifles. “I don’t know how many guns I own; it’s the whole spectrum from 70 to 100, but I haven’t done a recent count,” he said. “I have tons of AR-15s.”
Were a violent criminal to break into his Texas home—“I’d rather not say where, I’m keeping them guessing,” he demurred—“I can only use one at time, and I’d have to use that one very well.”
Noir added that his mushrooming gun collection, which has become something of an obsession, “doesn’t make your bank account happy.”
Yet before that fateful day years ago when his friend invited him to a Houston area firing range, “I was pretty anti-gun—more based on ignorance than actual experience,” said Noir, who grew up “in an apartment complex that was pretty shitty” in Houston’s economically depressed Alief neighborhood before his single mom, a registered nurse, moved to suburban Sugar Land and made very sure that he studied hard in school.
Noir’s estranged father, a chef and caterer, didn’t live with the family or spend any time with him, he said, until they started developing a relationship relatively recently.
“My fear of firearms came through the media,” Noir explained. “Generally speaking, my relationship with firearms was through local news, when somebody did something bad with it”—that is, incessant reports of Houston’s inner-city gang violence in the local news tradition of if-it-bleeds-it-leads. “Firearms just scared me a little bit, and I wanted nothing to do with them.”
What’s more, Noir added, “I didn’t want to be typecast as a young black man with a gun, engaged in nefarious activity. I grew up in an era where the idea of a black man with a gun was seen as a bad thing.”
In a bit of serendipity, however, Noir’s frequent YouTube videos on gun culture and gun rights coincided in 2013 with the 5-million-member NRA’s recruitment drive to bring blacks and Latinos into the gun-toting fold.
Noir rejects the notion that the NRA—which was practically mute in July 2016 when a Minnesota cop shot and killed African-American gun-owner Philando Castile, who had a concealed-carry permit, as he reached for his ID—is a bastion of “old, fat white guys,” where minorities are not especially welcome, and blamed the mainstream media for perpetuating this fiction.
He pointed to HBO satirist John Oliver’s recent Last Week Tonight segment lampooning NRA TV, which neglected to feature the pro-gun stylings of Colion Noir.
“Why did he ignore the most popular figure on the channel?” Noir demanded.
Still, Noir—a Trump voter who describes himself as “right-of-center” politically—obviously knows what it’s like to be black in a majority-white culture, and compelled to interact with the law enforcement community.
“I can tell you that I have been pulled over a million times,” Noir said, “because I have this thing I love to do called speeding… My love for firearms is only overshadowed by my love for fast cars, and I’ve had plenty of encounters with police officers—some black, a lot of them white, some you’d say are typical racists and some not. I can probably point to two occasions where I’ve had a bad experience with cops. There are some cops that are just assholes. There are some cops that are flat-out racists, and there are cops that are potential murderers…
“You can’t say they’re all good. They’re not,” he continued. “I’m very cognizant of my reality as a young black man. I have to take extra caution in the way I handle police stops. When I get pulled over, my license and my concealed-carry license are already out, and as soon as I pull over, my windows go down, and my hands are on the steering wheel.”
Noir recalled one such stop, however, where he and the cop spent a friendly half-hour discussing the finer points of firearms. “But he still gave me a ticket, which was extremely upsetting.”
Noir, who these days is a standout in large part because he’s an African American in a largely white milieu, eagerly agreed when an NRA official phoned to offer him the gig.
He has spent the past five years as a niche celebrity for the propaganda arm of the politically intimidating gun rights advocacy and firearms industry lobbying organization that spends millions of dollars every election cycle supporting and opposing incumbents and challengers based on their adherence to the NRA’s uncompromising creed.
Surprisingly, Noir said he remains somewhat baffled by his unlikely path in life. How did he happen to become one of the nation’s more prominent gun rights advocates?
“If I had the answer to that, I’d probably stop doing what I’m doing,” he replied. “Your guess is as good as mine, to be honest. Even to this day, I’m still wondering how I got where I am right now.”