For the 7th consecutive year, I am teaching my Sociology of Guns seminar at Wake Forest University. The course syllabus is available as a PDF here and separate blog posts on each course module can be found below. In addition, links to every post on the course since 2015 are available on my Gun Culture 2.0 site.
The image below represents the three main objects I have in teaching the course, as well as the related assessments.
The major assignments capture the overall arc of the course. Following our field trip to the gun range, students write a paper reflecting on the experience that invites them to surface their personal beliefs about guns:
In this essay, you will describe your experience participating in the range visit.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.Writing assignment adapted from Brett Burkhardt of Oregon State University
Students then turn their attention to understanding the multifaceted role of guns in society and approaching the issue of guns in society in a scholarly – that is, objective and nuanced – manner from a sociological perspective.
You will consider the role guns actually play in society by systematically engaging sociological theories and studies (called “the scholarly literature”) on one specific aspect of the broader phenomenon (e.g., concealed carry, homicide, self-defense, hunting, sport). You should choose a topic that is of interest to you that you want to investigate further.
Students choose a topic, review the scholarly literature on that topic, and write a final paper that develops their own perspective on the topic:
In the final paper, you will explain the role that guns actually play in American society based on your reading of the existing sociological “literature” (published theories and research) on the topic you are investigating. In addition to explaining what the existing literature says on your chosen topic, you should also develop your own perspective on it. For example, does the scholarly literature differ from popular perceptions? Do gun politics have a corrupting influence on what is studied or how? Does the literature come to a single, clear conclusion or not? If not, what should scholars be studying to rectify that situation?
Students conclude the course by writing a final reflection essay that asks them to return to their personal views of guns in light of their work over the semester:
In this final essay, you will revisit your previous personal experience with and understanding of guns in the U.S. (as expressed, e.g., in the field trip reflection essay) in light of your consideration of the role guns actually do play in American society. Reflecting on what you learned from completing your major writing assignment, as well as the class more generally, discuss how your mind has (and/or has not) changed. Conclude this paper by considering what more you need to know in order to make informed choices about your own participation with and the place of guns in the communities in which you live and will live in the future.
Our week-to-week work is captured in the course’s ten modules:
- Sociology of Guns Module 1: Field Trip to Gun Range
- Sociology of Guns Module 2: Guns Are Normal, Normal People Use Guns
- Sociology of Guns Module 3: Gun Culture 2.0, the Great Gun Buying Spree of 2020+, and the Changing Face of Gun Owners
- Sociology of Guns Module 4: The Concealed Carry Revolution
- Sociology of Guns Module 5: Race and Guns
- Sociology of Guns Module 7: Gender, Sexuality, and Guns
- Sociology of Guns Module 8: Gun Injuries, Suicide, Rights and Responsibilities
- Sociology of Guns Module 9: Criminal Homicide and Injury
- Sociology of Guns Module 10: Police Use of Force
- Sociology of Guns Module 11: Guns and Liberalism