Final Student Range Visit Reflection: A Liberal, Anti-Gun Perspective

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.

Non-Violence sculpture in front of UN headquarters by ZhengZhou [CC BY-SA 3.0 (

Sarah Najjar

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.

16 thoughts on “Final Student Range Visit Reflection: A Liberal, Anti-Gun Perspective

  1. Oh my. There is a third thing that I wish this student would have realized. She describes tears and rage at the sight of a flag and a man talking about guns and the use of guns at an established range. When someone reacts that severely, that makes me think there is also some serious emotional instability in that person. Perhaps with time, reflection, and possibly appropriate care, she can better regulate her emotions in the future.

    Sadly, this kind of reaction appears to be fairly common in the anti-civil rights and anti-gun movement. There is little beyond visceral reaction (rage at a “masculine man”?), and little to no interest in understanding another point of view, let alone respecting someone that does not share the same values.

    Point of fact: the attacker in the Newtown mass murder event did not purchase the weapon used from a gun store. He murdered his mother and stole it.


  2. The student got her facts wrong about Newtown. The guy did not buy the gun. He killed his mother to get her gun. Otherwise interesting opinion piece.


  3. I have really enjoyed these articles – thank you for sharing them.
    A few things have reverberated through my mind during the duration of the posts. 1) I am OUTRAGED that you had to correct grammar in papers written by people with much more education than I have had the benefit of enjoying. 2) There seems to be an assumption of entitlement in these authors: perhaps it is because they are of the age where they “know everything” but I suspect it is rather that they have been told so many times that their far left opinions count more than facts and have never had the opportunity to exist outside of this echo chamber. 3) Hoplophobia is a term invented by an old Col. Jeff Cooper, who coined term for those with an irrational fear of firearms. I do not use the term in my classes because I do not want to label such fragile people who might, in fact, be hoplophobes – but it is clear that these very sensitive college students exhibit irrational fears of inanimate objects. 4) How can a society exist and grow if so many young people have never been taught to think with facts and discernment, but rather consider feelings to be more of a guide for truth? 5) I actually would love to have a nice, gentle discussion with these students – I would like to know why they think that thinking the way they do is a proper way to think.


    • Appreciate your reading, but I also think your hardened view of guns overdetermined your response. You approach their reflections from a position of certainty rather than curiosity, which is not the point of this blog. There are plenty of places on the internet where people who already have their minds made up can go.

      If you read the assignment you will find that some things your fault them for are part of what they were asked to do. These reflections were written before the class event met in the classroom.


      • “These reflections were written before the class event met in the classroom.”

        Obviously this assignment was written after the ProShots Range event. Are they also written before much, if any, other classroom materials are readings are assigned? If so, I see the purpose in the assignment, but the posts themselves may be somewhat misleading to the readers of this blog as that would significant context. It would certainly shape any of my own comments.

        To elaborate further, if this reflection was written after very little classroom material was presented, that would be one thing. If this reflection was written after a significant portion of the course was completed, that would imply very different things about the student’s attitudes towards the relevant topics.


      • Reflections are written after the field trip and before the first regular class meeting. The prefatory material gives a link to the assignment. It is a field trip reflection essay. The students will also write final reflection essays due May 8th. I will post some of those also, with their permission.


      • Ok, in that case if I could I would amend my original post. While the point of fact stands (and is instructional), many of my original comments are not applicable. Assuming this really was the student’s first encounter with “gun culture” after growing up in a strongly anti-gun and authoritarian environment, the reactions are understandable. I hope the remainder of the semester was/is enlightening for that person.


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