As I prepare to teach my Sociology of Guns course Version 7.0, I thought I would post as much of the material for the different modules I am teaching this fall as possible.
Probably the most unique aspect of this course from the start has been the class trip to the gun range. Before we ever meet as a class or discuss any opinions, ideas, or scholarship on guns, students are REQUIRED to attend a field trip to the gun range. Once there, they are given the OPTION to try shooting.
The range field trip is such a highlight of the class for students, I joke that the course goes downhill after day 1.
Before 2020, we would visit the gun range as a class (16 students), have one of the range staff discuss guns/gun safety, and then go to the range all together.
With COVID in 2020, additional precautions were put in place to make the trip safe, fun, and informational. Students visited the range just 4 at a time and masks were required.
Although not having the entire class visit at one time lessened some of the solidarity developed when the students were all together, it also lessened the self-consciousness some students had that prevented them from trying shooting. Prior to 2020, about two-thirds to three-quarters of students would try shooting during the field trip. In 2020, every student did. Therefore, this fall I am again going to have the students visit the range 4 at a time.
Additionally, in 2020, the gun and gun safety information that was previously provided at the range was delivered asynchronously online in the form of videos I recorded. In order to maximize our time shooting at the range, I am going to use these same videos again this fall.
After watching the Pre-Range Visit Gun Safety Information video (above), students have to pass a two question quiz concerning the rules of gun safety and proper range attire.
Students also watch a brief video that provides basic information about firearms prior to their visit to the range (below).
In 2020, and hopefully again in 2021, students had the opportunity to shoot a small caliber, new shooter friendly semi-auto .22 pistol, followed by a 9mm semi-auto pistol, and then an .223/5.56 caliber AR-15 style rifle.
Shooting is not required but many students who have never fired a gun have given it a try and were glad they did.
To prepare the students, I have them watch a Basic Shooting Instruction video I recorded (below).
The ammo shortage accompanying the Great Gun Buying Spree of 2020+ is still with us. So, I need to take a moment here and thank Lucky Gunner for providing .22, 9mm, and .223 ammunition for the class field trip this year. They did not seek recognition for their donation, but I am happy to give it.
Following the field trip and prior to the first class session, students are required to write a 500 word (minimum) gun range field trip reflection essay. The assignment, which I borrowed from Brett Burkhardt of Oregon State University, is:
In this essay, you will describe your experience of our field trip to the range. The essay is a subjective recollection of your experience at the range, so the content is largely up to you, but it must answer the following question: How did the experience fit with your prior understanding of guns in the US? To answer this question you might benefit from thinking about the following related questions: What did you find surprising? What did you learn? What did you find appealing (or disturbing)? Although you can (and should) reference particular events, processes, or experiences, this essay should not be a mere “play-by-play” of what you did during the field trip.
These reflection essays, as I have discussed previously, are some of the most insightful materials produced by students in my Sociology of Guns seminar over the years. Which again highlights how the class tends to go downhill from the heights at which it starts.
These reflection essays provide the basis for our class introductions and range visit debrief and a springboard into our first topic: Guns Are Normal, Normal People Use Guns (more on Module 2 forthcoming).