This is the fifth 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 and third post and fourth post.)
This student’s background was familiar to me as I meet many women whose grandfathers, fathers, and brothers hunt but whose grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and themselves do not. So, although her father and brother hunted together, she had never fired a gun before this field trip.
31 January 2019
Our class field trip to ProShots Range peaked my interest in a number of different ways. Prior to the trip I had interacted with guns both very distantly and very infrequently. My father and brother love to duck hunt, and though I have never done this with them, I have seen them exhibit a number of different gun safety practices. These would include cleaning their guns after every single use, making sure that their guns are stored unloaded and in an extremely safe location, and always keeping ammunition in a separate location from the firearms themselves. Additionally, before our class trip, I had never even laid my hands on a gun. In fact, when my family members have carried them from the basement out to our garage, I have felt a little uncomfortable at the sight of them. Therefore, I was expecting to feel rather nervous during the range visit.
Thankfully, after taking the Introduction to Firearms course with Mr. Talbert, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I felt more safe than anything else. He did an excellent job explaining how to safely handle and use firearms (namely, how to look through the sight, pull the trigger, and always keep them pointing down range), and my feeling that an accident could happen at any moment quickly faded away. I only felt nervous or uncomfortable when we were inside the shooting range with people that we didn’t know, and who hadn’t just taken the safety course that we had. This made me think about how much trust gun users must place in one another as they carry out their hobby/training. They must trust that the person shooting beside them has the same respect for the firearm, and the same respect for life, that they do. Thus, to conclude what surprised me about physically being at the range, I will note that I felt extremely safe throughout the visit, and only nervous when forced to trust two complete strangers.
The feelings expressed above are those which I experienced because I was physically at ProShots Range. However, there were certainly other things about the visit that surprised me as they challenged my prior understanding of gun culture in the United States. One preconceived notion that I had about gun ownership was that it is far too easy for anyone in the United States to put their hands on a gun. Furthermore, I view this as a likely cause of the frequency with which mass shootings take place in our country. This is something that I believe I still feel is true after our field trip; however, I was pleasantly surprised by the purchase process that Mr. Talbert described during our visit. We learned that the penalty for purchasing a gun legally, but then turning around and selling it to someone who is incapable of legally purchasing one, is a fine of $10,000 and a sentence of 10 years in federal prison. This fact, though transactions like this one likely take place on a fairly regular basis, makes me confident that it isn’t quite as easy to put one’s hands on a firearm as I thought it was. Second, as I read over the Firearms Transaction Record form before the field trip, it disturbed me that anyone in the United States could walk into a gun shop, answer the questions however dishonestly they pleased, and attain a firearm. The question that disturbed me most was, “Have you ever been adjudicated as a mental defective?” I could not believe that this question was being posed as a self-report measure without any type of confirmation to follow. However, we learned from Richard that a background check is conducted simultaneously.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to ProShots. I had fun participating in a sport that my family really enjoys, and it felt humbling to hold something in my hands that can cause more permanent damage than anything I had ever held before. I feel like I have a much greater sense of the respect that gun users must operate their firearms with, and I am extremely excited to learn more about gun culture in the United States.