This is the seventh and final post 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 and sixth post.)
This student’s reflection is particularly interesting to me because she is — by her own admission — so anti-gun she had a very negative reaction to the field trip.
The introduction to firearms class and range visit was an experience unlike any I’ve had before. I was born and raised in Manhattan, New York, attending a very liberal, anti-gun high school. My father is a very liberal Moroccan man, a man who never let us light sparklers let alone own or encounter a gun. The conditions under which I grew up in were not synonymous with attending gun ranges or having a comprehensive understanding of firearms. To me, firearms were not something I had ever been exposed to or nor did I want to. I distinctly remember the feeling of my heart racing in my chest as we drove to the ProShots range. It was a very shocking feeling to know I was going to see a weapon of death and have the option to hold and eventually shoot it myself.
When we were in the classroom I found myself reflecting on how I viewed guns in the United States. Sitting in that classroom, learning about guns, while hearing the sound of firing guns nearby shocked me. It left me holding back tears and I found myself looking for the strength to rise above and stay in that room when honestly all I wanted to do was scream and leave the room. I thought of all the mass shootings I’d learned about that had occurred due to the fact that men like the one standing in front of me sold guns to people this man, in reality, had no way of knowing were stable enough to have a gun, or honest enough to not sell the gun they had bought from him. I thought of how many wars I’d learned about in history that had been fought with weapons much like the ones I was sitting in the same room with. I thought of the man who shot up a school in Newtown, Connecticut, a place very dear to my heart, walking into a store much like this one and purchasing a gun. I started to despise the gun industry even more than I did before.
In order to keep the tears from leaving my eyes, I started to look around the room. First, I saw an American flag at the head of the room. It enraged me because it felt like the flag was there to argue for the “American” right to own guns for protection (despite the fact that our nation has one of the highest rates of death due to guns). So, I looked somewhere else. The next thing I noticed was the man-shaped target sitting in front of the flag- the hyper-muscular man. I began to think more about what I associated with guns: the masculine man and was more enraged. It was at this point I decided to hear what the teacher had to say. I was surprised to see how in depth the application was to acquire a gun. Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the men selling guns were attuned to signs of when not to sell a gun to someone.
I wish I could have ended my reflection of this experience with a new found understanding of the gun industry, or a sense of acceptance for the fact that people own guns, but I don’t think I am there yet. I cannot say if it’s the way I was raised, or the violence I have learned of at the hands of guns, or the unnecessary and incredibly problematic hyper-masculinity I feel is associated with owning a gun, but I left that gun range with the understanding that my experience that day fit in beautifully with my previous understanding of guns in the United States. A part of me is happy because I feel that this day showed me that my anti-gun support is a big part of who I am and what I believe, but another part of myself is disappointed because I was not able to open my mind enough to fully understand the other side of the argument.