Student Range Visit Reflection #3: A Newfound Respect

This is the third of several planned posts featuring Sociology of Guns Seminar student reflections on our field trip to ProShots, a local gun range. I provide the actual assignment in the first post, and you can also see it in the context of the syllabus itself. (Link to second post.)

Many gun people take for granted that everyone has a basic familiarity with firearms. As someone who never saw, touched, or fired a (non-BB/pellet) gun for my first 42 years of life, I know there are many of us out there. The student’s reflection below highlights some of the discoveries that can come from venturing into the unknown of a gun store and range.

Sociology of Guns student field trip to ProShots Range, January 2018. Photo by David Yamane

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How Many Guns Are There In The United States Today? 400 Million Or So

How many guns are there in the United States today? No one really knows, but research conducted by the Geneva, Switzerland based Small Arms Survey provides the best guesstimate for 2017:

Civilian-held Firearms: 393,347,000

Military-owned Firearms: 4,535,380

Law Enforcement Firearms: 1,016,000

TOTAL FIREARMS ESTIMATE (2017): 398,898,380

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Student Range Visit Reflection #2: Shooting is Fun But Targets are No Joke

This is the second of several planned posts featuring Sociology of Guns Seminar student reflections on our field trip to ProShots, a local gun range. I provide the actual assignment in the first post, and you can also see it in the context of the syllabus itself.

This student refers toward the end of her reflection to me making “a joke about purposefully avoiding the human paper targets.” Although I probably said this with a smile on my face, I did not mean it as a joke. In fact, the first time I took a class to the range in 2015, we (without thinking) put up humanoid targets.  One of the students – pictured below — asked to shoot a non-humanoid target. We had an excellent discussion in class after about the ethical significance of target selection. Since then, as much as possible, I have tried always to use non-human/humanoid paper targets during our field trips.

Sociology of Guns student wearing Christian Peacemaker hat at Veterans Range, 2015.

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Student Gun Range Reflection: Getting a Better Grasp of an Unknown Aspect of Gun Culture

As I discussed previously, my Sociology of Guns seminar’s field trip to the gun range is always a highlight of the course. This year was no exception.

The field trip has two components: A mandatory classroom introduction to firearms/safety and a voluntary opportunity to shoot guns on the range. In recent iterations of the course, I have required students write a short, 750 +/-250 word essay reflecting on the field trip.

In this essay, you will describe your experience participating in the introduction to firearms class and range visit. The essay is a subjective recollection of your experience at the range, so the content is largely up to you, but it must answer the following question: How did the experience fit with your prior understanding of guns in the US?

To answer this question you might benefit from thinking about the following related questions: What did you find surprising? What did you learn? What did you find appealing (or disturbing)? Although you can (and should) reference particular events, processes, or experiences, this essay should not be a mere “play-by-play” of what you did during the field trip. [Assignment borrowed from Brett Burkhardt of Oregon State University]

In the coming days, I will post some of these student reflection essays. They provide interesting insights into the experience and thoughts of young adults who for the most part are not invested in, or even familiar with, guns and gun culture. They are gun curious.

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2019 Sociology of Guns Seminar Gun Store and Range Field Trip

My Sociology of Guns seminar’s annual field trip to the gun range is such a highlight that I sometimes wonder if I should do it at the end of class rather than the beginning. The class really is all down hill after visiting the range.

This semester my 15 students and I once again made the short drive from Wake Forest University to ProShots Range in Rural Hall, North Carolina.

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Sociology of Guns Seminar Field Trip to the Gun Range

One of the best places to satisfy gun curiosity is at the gun range. So the highlight of my Sociology of Guns seminar at Wake Forest University each year is a field trip we take to a local range. There students get a first exposure to what guns are, how they work, and what it is like to handle them. This provides an essential experiential base of knowledge that carries over through the semester.

Sociology of Guns student learning how to operate an IWI Tavor bullpup rifle at Veterans Range, 2016.

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Who Are The Gun Curious?

The U.S. population breaks down roughly in thirds –

  • Current Gun Owners: 27 to 33%
  • Not Currently But Possible Gun Owners: 33 to 39%
  • Not Now and Not Ever Gun Owners: 30 to 36%

Americans are politically divided by the issue of guns. But as with other “culture wars,” the fighting is often undertaken by elites, while the muddled masses watch from the sidelines, often with disbelief or revulsion at the true believers screaming past each other.

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