Below is the tenth student reflection essay for Fall 2020. (Find the first here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, the sixth here, the seventh here, the eighth here, and the ninth here.)
By Andrew Cecil
As weird as it may sound, the trip to the gun range was a very refreshing one for me. Although I have limited shooting experience, I’ve found that once outside of a range environment, guns conversations distinctly shift to an overwhelming focus on issues of misuse.
I grew up going hunting with my family, but the Veteran’s range was only the third time that I had actually handled a firearm. Despite not having extensive handling experience, conversations regarding responsible gun ownership were normalized from a young age. With the gun debate at the center of recent tragedies, it was uplifting to visit the gun range and be reminded that guns can in fact be used responsibly when in a controlled setting.
Because I was introduced to responsible gun use in my childhood, I always have viewed gun ownership as a normal part of life. This experience handling firearms reminded me of times hunting with my family. The trip to the range perfectly fit my initial understanding of guns in the United States, as they are to be handled with extreme caution but also are a normal part of society.
The portion of the gun trip that opened my eyes was actually speaking with my classmates about the prevalence (or lack thereof) of guns in their upbringing. Being raised in North Carolina, I haven’t met many people that are unfamiliar with guns or that haven’t been around a gun. As I approached the field trip, I didn’t know how unnatural guns are to a lot of people. The field trip and our subsequent introductory videos shed a light on the regional divide that guns have. Because guns are normalized for me, I was surprised by the number of people that had little to no background with firearms. With surprise came encouragement, as I am excited to learn more about regional perspectives through meaningful conversation.
While at the range, I remembered how fun it was to shoot a gun. With recent tragedies involving guns, it’s natural to gravitate towards guns as a perpetrator of evil in society. The abuses of guns can be devastating, but after time away from the controlled environment of a range, the trip renewed my faith that guns bring value to everyday life when used correctly.
The range also gave me perspective; it’s one thing to talk about gun culture but experiencing the feel of a gun and the thrill of aiming for a bullseye is unique. I was so excited to go to the range not only to practice my marksmanship, but also to go through the experience of handling firearms together as a class. I believe that this practice with firearms will make our class discussions so much richer.
I have a lot more experience shooting handguns, but I had never shot a rifle that compares to an AR-15 before visiting the range. Although I spent the trip looking forward to shooting the AR-15, and had a great time in the process, I was a little bit concerned after the fact with how easy it was to handle. I am a gun advocate but the lightweight nature and minimal kickback it gave was a bit concerning. I couldn’t help but think about how easily it could be operated by even a new gun owner. Although it is a powerful firearm, I felt as if the power can easily be underestimated, especially when it had less kickback than some of the handguns we shot. Now that I have experience shooting an AR-15, recent events in Wisconsin make me question the role that weapons such as AR-15’s have in general society. I look forward to discussing this in class, as I would like to understand the many perspectives felt.
The trip to the gun range excited me for what is to come in the course. I learned how many of my classmates, including myself, are open to educating themselves on differing perspectives. I can’t wait to share experiences among classmates, but more importantly to learn more about the beliefs of others and how regional locations and events influenced their perspective.