This is the sixth 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 and fifth post.)
This reflection is by a Canadian student – an outsider to gun culture in both the United States and Canada – who ended up deciding not to shoot on the range but still learned quite a bit.
29 January 2019
I am not someone who is completely familiar with guns. In fact, I am someone who is quite fearful of them. I did not grow up around guns, I have had personal experience with loss related to gun violence and I cannot personally relate to the cultural significance of guns in the United States, coming from Canada. Going into the field trip at ProShots, I was excited to learn more about guns and the regulations around them, but nervous about how I would feel being so close and potentially handling one of the objects I fear the most in the world.
Entering the facility, I was amazed with the sheer number of products that the store sold. I did not realize how many different types of handguns, bullets, and accessories one could purchase and seeing patrons casually coming in and buying ammunition and accessories intrigued me. At the risk of sounding ignorant, I was amazed to see how casual the whole process was, as I never thought about any of these transactions as ever being something that was a part of regular day-to-day life.
I found the “class” portion of the field trip to be extremely informative and helped decrease my anxiety about the experience in general, as it was very clear that the manager, Richard Talbert, was extremely knowledgeable about the subject and really payed attention to the finer details and safety protocols of the range, not that I had any doubt that he would.
My reaction to the guns themselves was not a surprise for me though, as even holding the plastic gun in the room made me anxious. While I was leaning towards not shooting in the gun range prior to the trip, the anxiety that I had holding a plastic one solidified my decision to not shoot once we went inside the range. While I think I could have benefited from firing the weapon, I did not think that it would be particularly safe for me to be holding the actual gun and firing it considering my reaction to a fake one already made me anxious.
Going into gun range was beneficial but quite scary at first. Hearing the sound of the guns firing was startling, especially when the people who were not in our class came into the range and were firing their own weapons at a much quicker pace than we were. I was especially startled when one man was firing a rifle in the range, as I had never really seen one up close before and only ever hear about those types of guns in mass shooting incidents around the country. While I know that it is not the gun’s fault, but rather the person wielding it when it comes to those tragedies, it was interesting to see someone shooting it “for fun.”
Overall, the trip to the gun range was one that I found beneficial to my overall learning, but also one that left me with a considerable number of questions. While I was able to see the culture and interest around guns firsthand, I still question the veracity of some people’s commitment to anti-gun control measures and the firearms in general. It confuses me that these people, who abide by gun regulations and use and store their firearms safely, could be opposed to more measures that would continue to make the gun community safer, and perhaps less susceptible to criticism from outsiders. In my opinion, stricter gun laws could help reduce the amount of gun violence in this country, which I think would then in turn decrease the amount of criticism gun lobbies and gun owners receive from the larger community. Additionally, while I was pleased to see how seriously ProShots takes gun safety, abiding by the regulations and taking extra measures to make sure all their gun sales are legitimate and those who are buying the guns the actual owners, it makes me question how many gun shops abide by the same policies. While I believe that majority of these stores do, it makes me question how many of them take the extra steps that Pro-Shots does.
Overall, I feel like this experience helped broaden my understanding of guns in the US, the culture around them and eased my concerns about what the gun regulations are in the US in the first place. I know that majority of gun owners are responsible and I understand that guns are an important part of American culture as a whole, but seeing everything in person helped me realize that these thoughts I had about guns were in fact a reality. It also helped me understand the gun control debate a little bit more. For someone like me, who has no relationship or real positive connection to guns, it is a lot easier for me to blindly agree with stricter gun control laws and not be able to see the other side’s argument. After going to ProShots and understanding why people want guns or enjoy guns a little bit more, it gives me perspective on why some people might be against further gun control, though I still have some questions.
I think the trip overall was a good experience, despite any anxiety it may have brought up at times; it pushed me out of my comfort zone, helped me understand the reasoning behind gun advocates and made me more at ease with how gun ranges and shops are regulated and operated. This trip made me even more excited to further explore these issues in class and really get into how both sides of the gun debate see the issue, and begin to think of ways we could remedy the situation in the United States as whole.
[DY NOTE: I have very lightly edited this text for length and to correct glaring spelling, grammar, and/or substantive errors.]