Although the remnants of Hurricane Ida forced a last minute rescheduling, my Fall 2021 Sociology of Guns seminar students completed their mandatory field trip to the gun range on September 3rd.
This is the 7th time I have taught the course and the 7th successful field trip we have taken as a class. All the students left the range with the same number of holes in their bodies as they arrived with, plus some experience handling and shooting live firearms.
Although guns are always a Rorschach test of sorts and students’ preexisting understandings heavily influence the conclusions they draw about guns at the end of the course, having an experiential basis upon which to discuss firearms and shooting is foundational to our consideration of the role of guns in American society.
In the coming days, I will (as before) post some of the students’ field trip reflection essays on this blog. They have historically been among the most popular items I post, so stay tuned!
Students are required to go on the field trip, but not to shoot. In previous years, when the class attended as a single group, about two-thirds of students opted to try shooting. Last year, due to COVID, I had the students visit the range in 4 groups of 4 students. I was interested to observe that in these smaller groups, every student opted in to the shooting. Because there are always so many new shooters in the class, I think these smaller groups made it more comfortable for them to try. So, even though COVID restrictions are not as strict this year as last, I kept the small group approach.
All 13 students in the class tried shooting again this year. Of these, 1 student had considerable experience (including as a competition shooter), 3 had some experience, and 9 had no experience.
As in previous years, my goal was not to make these students proficient shooters or to perfect their technique, but simply to give them enough instruction to safely hold and fire three different guns: a Ruger Mark III .22LR semi-automatic pistol, a Glock 17 9mm semi-automatic pistol, and an AR-style 5.56mm/.223 semi-automatic rifle.
Although the ammo shortage that went along with the Great Gun Buying Spree of 2020+ is starting to abate, prices remain high. So I am grateful that Lucky Gunner ammo donated 200 rounds of each of the three calibers the students would have the opportunity to try.
Although students had a range of responses to shooting the different guns, some of which I will post here as noted above, I am happy to say that none reported having Gersh Kuntzman-like PTSD symptoms from firing the AR-style rifle.
Another COVID pandemic induced modification to the course is that I cover information about types of firearms, gun safety, and shooting in pre-recorded videos the students watch prior to arriving at the range (rather than giving this instruction at the range). These YouTube hosted videos are available below.