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.
January 31, 2019
“Breaking News: Active Shooter.” These are the headlines that Americans have become all too familiar with as the number of shootings and instances of gun violence seem to have skyrocketed in recent years. Reading these headlines and stories, and seeing the images of gun violence displayed on the news are the only “interactions” with guns that I have had. Having grown up in suburban New Jersey and New York City, I had never even seen an ordinary person with a gun. Rather, the only guns I ever saw were those attached to police officers. Thus, my understanding of guns and why people want to have guns was extremely limited prior to enrolling in Sociology of Guns and, subsequently, arriving at the gun range. Reflecting on my experience at ProShots, I had several misconceptions about guns and gun ranges that were ultimately altered during the trip. I have gained a better understanding about guns, gun culture (specifically in the greater Winston-Salem area), and the appeal of owning, buying, and shooting guns.
When thinking about what a gun range entailed, I pictured guns enclosed in cases, that are available for people to shoot in large open fields. Therefore, when I arrived to ProShots I was rather surprised as it was in a strip mall next to a local Dollar Tree, Golden Wok, and a Hair Salon. This casualness was quite shocking as my idea that guns were dangerous and scary was clearly not a commonly held belief by those in Rural Hall. My image of gun ranges/stores was further shattered when I walked in and most of the guns were not enclosed in a glass case, but instead were displayed openly on the wall. In that moment, I realized there is nothing special or different about gun stores– they are simply normal stores with products and inventory available for purchase. The notion that the general public here in Forsyth County is not as terrified of guns as I am and gun stores are rather casual, became even more apparent when a young man, who looked as though he just got off of work, was coming to shoot for fun. It seemed fair to assume that attending a shooting range after work was synonymous with getting off of work and going to the gym. I realized shooting is a leisure activity that people engage in perhaps for fun or as a stress reliever.
Aside from my initial experiences and impressions of the gun store and gun culture in Forsyth County, my complete and utter terror of guns slowly disintegrated when actually shooting the gun. Holding the gun, feeling its weight, hearing its sound, and firing it were all new and invigorating experiences. The gun was much heavier, louder, and harder to shoot than expected. In addition to thinking that I had to just lightly pull the trigger for it to fire, aiming the gun was significantly harder and I never actually knew where I hit the target. Not only did shooting a gun help relax my anxieties about guns and their potential danger, but I also had a newfound respect for people who have to shoot guns and actually aim.
[DY NOTE: I have very lightly edited this text for length and to correct glaring spelling, grammar, and/or substantive errors.]