Teaching the Sociology of Guns to the Gun Curious

One place I often meet gun curious people is in the Sociology of Guns seminar I teach at Wake Forest University.

As I have for the past four academic years, I am currently teaching the seminar this semester. A PDF of the current syllabus is available, as are my dozens of posts on previous year’s classes.

Although some students come into this class resolutely pro-gun or anti-gun, the majority are not strongly committed one way or the other. They just want to learn more about the role guns play in society.

Unlike most sociologists who study guns, I do not focus primarily on gun violence, crime, or control (although those topics are covered). Rather, the course seeks to explore the multifaceted role guns play in the U.S. from a sociological perspective.

Among the books I often assign is The Gun Debate by Duke University professors Philip Cook and Kristin Goss. They begin with an important observation: “firearms serve a variety of useful purposes but are also subject to misuse” (p. 1).

My approach to guns, especially in my Sociology of Guns seminar, seek to capture both sides of this coin.

A question Cook and Goss pose is one my gun curious students and other gun curious people I meet grapple with: “How can we reduce the problems of misuse while preserving the benefit of normal prudent use?”

This question, more than many other, may be the essence of the gun curiosity.

21 thoughts on “Teaching the Sociology of Guns to the Gun Curious

  1. I really enjoyed this article and I’ve started going through the collected posts. Interesting stuff. I thought I’d point out Project Appleseed to you. http://www.appleseedinfo.org It’s a great program for those even marginally interested in firearms. I thought you’d find, also, the stated purpose of Project Appleseed interesting.


    • Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. It is sad that I have known of Appleseed for many years but have never managed to get out to an event despite the fact that they hold them not far from me and a colleague is (or at least used to be) involved. This is a good reminder to dust off my bolt action .22 and get that back on my to do list.


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