This is the fourth of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2021 Sociology of Guns seminar (see reflection #1, reflection #2, and reflection #3). The assignment to which students are responding can be found here. I am grateful to these students for their willingness to have their thoughts shared publicly.
By Dalton Collins
My understanding of firearms in my life has always been that they are primarily tools, regardless of their ability to maim and kill. They are tools by which we can hunt and defend ourselves. Despite this, it has always been important to treat them with the utmost respect in order to handle them safely. Like many other tools they can be used for recreation.
Shooting guns is fun. There is an adrenaline component to the sound and recoil as well as a satisfaction found hitting a target.
Our trip to the range was the first time I have fired a gun in over a year. Despite how fun guns can be, I do not tend to find myself wanting to fire them. In fact, I have spent more time considering my opinions on gun control than handling firearms. in the US.
When I became old enough for my dad to show me how to shoot, I was enthralled by guns. Up until that point, firing guns was something I saw in movies and in video games. From the time I was 16 until about 19, shooting guns was a form of recreation. I would do it with family and friends.
However, once the excitement died down shooting became a bit of a burden. The amount of time and care that goes into cleaning up after shooting became more strenuous than part of the fun. Eventually I stopped shooting and when my brother last asked if I wanted to, I declined. Content with my knowledge and past experience with firearms, I lost the desire to shoot recreationally.
At the range I felt some of the old excitement and satisfaction that goes along with firearms. The .22 caliber has always been a favorite of mine to shoot. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed myself while shooting in front of strangers despite my neutrality towards guns. It felt natural to do it again, like riding a bike.
After the trip I had a conversation with my girlfriend about gun control. What happened on our trip was a fantastic example of how guns can be normal, like it said on your shirt. I certainly agree, but I am always reminded how dangerous guns can be. Since high school I have felt that guns are perfectly acceptable for private ownership while also seeing the need for gun control and safety education. This is something I look forward to discussing in class as we go forward.
Most interesting to me about our trip was meeting people who had never fired a gun before. Most of my group members fit into this category. Guns have been so normal to me it is easy to forget that this is not the case for everyone else. For numerous reasons some people have never fired a gun.
I was surprised to see how somewhat nervous anticipation became what I perceived as excitement in my peers. When firearms are treated with respect and handled safely, they can be very fun.
I did not expect to stand out in my aiming, but I was still surprised to see how naturally aiming came to my peers. Everyone made a very good showing on the targets. The experience I had at the range gives me hope that guns can be somewhat normal for everyone. At the very least guns can be understood and respected as dangerous, useful, and recreational.