This is the seventh of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2021 Sociology of Guns seminar (see reflection #1, reflection #2, reflection #3, reflection #4, reflection #5, and reflection #6). 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 Adam Porth
Ever since I was little, my dad always taught me about gun safety and how to act around guns. Starting with nerf guns, all the way up to his prized Remington 870s, I was taught about the great pleasure that shooting guns can be if I follow all the rules to make sure myself and everyone around me were safe.
When it came to the field trip, however, I felt like half of the knowledge I had saved up over the years about gun safety had dwindled. As someone who handles guns relatively frequently, I was surprised to find out that I barely knew how to operate a simple .22 pistol that was so similar to the one I own at home. From this, I felt that no matter how acclimated you are (or think you are) to guns, there is still a rather startling feeling about picking up a new gun for the first time.
Nevertheless, my experience with the new assortment of guns this past Friday left me slightly surprised at how there are so many gun accidents and misuse incidents in the U.S. every year. Whether it’s a child taking a gun thinking it’s a toy, or a father misfiring in his backyard, I was astonished how more people don’t treat guns the same way my dad or Dr. Yamane treat them.
For example, there was one specific incident that made me think about how important teaching gun safety rules can be. After shooting, one of my classmates put the gun down pointing towards the rest of us. While the gun was unloaded with the safety on, Dr. Yamane quickly turned the gun, so it faced down the range instead of towards us. I, even after years of firearm experience, almost did the same thing at one point. It made me realize, somewhat disturbingly, that even with a good amount of gun experience, mistakes happen frequently. Even if they seem small, when not paying attention, they can become much larger than expected.
These specific safety moments made me think of what would happen in the United States if everyone kept their guns where they should be and had to have taken a gun safety course before purchasing one. What if everyone had a gun locker and a separate ammo locker, an in-person course on gun safety with an exam at the end, and other precautions to help reduce the number of accidents and firearm misuse incidents?
It made me wonder, would all these precautions lower the number of accidents (and violent occurrences) that happen through guns in the United States? Or are there other reasons besides misuse and lack of education that contribute to a lot of gun injuries/deaths?
In addition to making me evaluate my thoughts on gun safety, shooting semi-automatic firearms also affected my prior understanding of guns. I had never really been a fan of semi-automatic firearms; my entire life, I mainly spent my time shooting shotguns and revolvers where you need to pull the hammer back each time you shot. Because of the limited fire rate and ammo capacity of the types of guns I grew up shooting, I never really thought of guns as “combat” weapons aside from the stories I read about on the news.
It is still surprising to me that it is common for people to own semi-automatic rifles with upwards of 30 bullets in the magazine. Even though I had a ton of fun firing the AR-like rifle at the range, it is slightly disturbing knowing that some people have access to rifles with such large magazines that can cause so much harm.
Overall, I do think it was a positive experience for my classmates and me to experiment with different firearms in a safe and controlled environment. It makes me realize that weapons that I may not be a fan of can still be enjoyable to fire when in the right circumstances; when all precautions are taken, firearms can be a fun hobby and a great way to let loose. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to learning more about guns and their impact on society throughout the semester.