Student Gun Range Field Trip: Triggers and Cognitive Dissonance

In response to my recent post about prepping for Sociology of Guns V7.0, reader DZ asked:

I’m curious. Have any of your students been “triggered” by the range trip? Are any affected emotionally by shooting a firearm for the first time? Have you had students refuse to participate?

These are great questions that I am happy to answer.

Sociology of Guns student at range. Photo by Robin Lindner/RLI Media

The field trip is mandatory but the shooting is voluntary. In previous years, when everyone in the class (16 students) attended in one group, about 2/3 to 3/4 of the students opted to shoot.

The participation rate was lowest when we went to an indoor range because some students decide in the moment whether they want to shoot or not. As you probably know, indoor ranges are not the most sonically welcoming environments.

Sociology of Guns professor supervising student shooting at ProShots Range, 2019.

Due to COVID, last year I took just 4 students at a time and EVERYONE shot. I think being outdoors in a smaller group made the situation less intimidating. Even though COVID is less of a concern this year, I am still going to do the small groups for this reason.

Students are only rarely negatively triggered. This may be because I pre-screen students for the class, letting them know that the field trip is mandatory and telling them that if they have strongly negative personal experiences with firearms, the class may be challenging for them. I have had just a couple of students in the past ask to sit out the discussion of suicide do to previous trauma.

On the other hand, I have had many students who experience the cognitive dissonance of disliking guns going in and enjoying the experience of shooting. You can get a flavor for this in the reflections students write after the field trip, some of which I post on my blog(s).

From last year, for example:

The collected posts from the class dating back to 2015 are available HERE.

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7 thoughts on “Student Gun Range Field Trip: Triggers and Cognitive Dissonance

  1. Back in the day I took a number of new shooters to the range (granted, folks predisposed to be positive about guns). I usually brought a selection of firearms for variety but the one that invariably produced a look what I can only describe as unholy glee was the AK-47.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Do you have your students discuss DGUs or interview people who have used guns defensively ?

    When i read their stories i see a lot about violence , and police but never about somebody saved from a sexual assault or stabbing, etc.


    • Thought I had replied to this, but perhaps just composed response in my mind. We don’t discuss DGUs per say because the scholarly literature on that is so messed up (estimates from 50,000 to millions annually), but we do talk about why people would want to have/carry a gun for defensive purposes – John Johnston carries a lot of that weight.


  3. Pingback: Sociology of Guns Module 1: Field Trip to Gun Range | Gun Curious

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