By Alexandra Tourret
When I first signed up to take this class, I was excited about the content of the course, but I was extremely excited for the opportunity to go to the gun range and learn how to fire different types of guns. I had only been to a gun range twice before, several years before this field trip, so my background experience with guns was fairly limited. When COVID hit the United States and started impacting our classes, I was worried that we would lose this opportunity to go to the range. I was thankful that you found a way to adapt to the situation and still provide us with this eye-opening experience.
Growing up, I gained most of my understanding of guns in the US through the news media. Early on when I was able to start understanding the extent of guns in our society, I formed the opinion that too many people owned guns, and that gun violence might not be so prevalent if there were fewer guns out in society. I’ll even admit that I created an ideal belief that only law enforcement and the military should own guns so that there would be much less violence due to lack of access to guns. However, as I learned more about the Constitution, our government, the role of the police, and acts of police brutality that were captured by the media, I realized that my ideal understanding of guns in the US was flawed and impractical, and did not actually align with my morals.
Meanwhile, from middle school on, I knew that I wanted to go into a career in law enforcement. But I was very wary of guns and convinced myself that I could serve in law enforcement without having to carry or use a gun. I was quite wrong. In high school, I started building a greater understanding of guns and the bureaucracy of police in my classes, and I began to realize that the procedural shows that I loved so much were very dramatized and did not truly reflect gun use by police in the United States. The summer after I graduated, my dad took me to a gun range for the first time, and my wariness of guns relaxed dramatically. It continued to do so as I learned from many of my Crime & Criminal Justice concentration courses here at Wake over the past three years. My understanding of gun-use in the US expanded tremendously in my classes (taught mostly by Dr. Bechtel), as well as through my internship this past summer with the Greensboro Police Department.
I interned with the Family Victims Unit of the Greensboro Police Department. I was able to apply much of my coursework to my experiences in the unit, but I had many questions regarding gun-carry by the officers and detectives, as well as their responses to the increase in police brutality cases and protests. I learned much from them and was able to get a variety of perspectives. I have stayed in close contact with one of the detectives that I spent a lot of time with during my internship, and he has given me one-on-one advice and lessons on how, when, where, and why they use their guns. The Friday before our field trip, he allowed me to handle his unloaded service weapon and taught me how to properly handle it, how to stand, and how to draw the gun from the belt. I think that this experience and his pointers helped me tremendously the day our class went to the range. Although I was only familiar with the Glock, I felt more comfortable overall during our lesson at the gun range than I expected to.
That Tuesday at the range, I was most surprised at how “well” I was able to handle the guns, especially the .22 pistol and the 9 mm Glock. Despite the tips I received from my friend/mentor at GPD, I was very grateful for your and your wife’s advice and encouragement. The AR-15 was certainly out of my realm of experience, so I definitely learned how different it is to shoot than a handgun, but the biggest thing I learned that day was that I was capable of safely handling a weapon and hitting the target. Those thirty minutes washed away my worries of not being competent enough with a gun to be in law enforcement (despite knowing that I would learn in the Academy), and the experience gave me a huge confident boost.
It also made me realize why so many people like to go shoot at the range: it’s fun! I know that I have much to learn in this class, but going on the field trip truly gave me insight into some of the motivations for why people in the United States like to own and use guns. I am excited to dive into the content of this course, and I look forward to the interesting discussions that our class will have going forward.