This is the eighth and final student gun range field trip reflection essay I will be posting from my fall 2021 Sociology of Guns seminar (see reflection #1, reflection #2, reflection #3, reflection #4, reflection #5, reflection #6, and reflection #7). 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.
As I have done for previous seminars, I will be posting some of the students’ final reflections at the end of the semester.
By Grace Taylor
Guns have never played a big role in my life. There were certainly no guns in my house when I was growing up. If I ever talked to my parents about guns, it was usually after a terrible tragedy, like a school shooting, or as we headed out to a protest, like a rally we attended on the Boston Common that was organized by Parkland High students.
That does not mean I had no personal connection to guns, or that I never thought about their popularity. My mother grew up in Vermont, and her father (my grandfather) and her older brother (my Uncle) were big hunters, so her childhood was filled with talk about guns and hunting, and she used to tell me about that, even though she hates guns.
Many years ago, when we went to visit my Uncle in Boise, Idaho, where he lives now, he showed us some of his rifles and the safes he kept them in. I also remember him talking a lot about gun safety, and how worried he was that someone might break into his house and steal his guns, which is why he always disassembled them and kept them in different safes.
When we went on our field trip, I wondered what the experience would be like and how it would affect me. Would I feel the sense of excitement that I know lots of people feel when they shoot guns? Would I surprise myself and actually enjoy firing a gun? Physically, would the guns be heavy or hard to hold? Would I understand better why people might want to own not just one gun, but five or ten different guns?
My first takeaway is that I am glad I shot the guns, but it is not something I am super eager to do again. The AR-15 rifle was so big, heavy, and loud. The act of shooting it felt incredibly intense, but not necessarily the good kind of intense. It felt dangerous.
Shooting the handguns did not feel quite as violent or dangerous, but it did not give me any kind of great rush of excitement. Even though I am glad I had the chance to shoot the two handguns and the rifle, my time at the range did not make me a gun enthusiast.
The part of the trip that made the biggest impression on me, even before we got to the range, was the emphasis on gun safety and the strict rules that we (and all gun owners) should follow when handling guns and shooting: “Treat every gun as if it is loaded.” “Never point your gun at something you don’t want to shoot or kill.” “Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.”
It may sound strange, but the more I thought about these and other safety rules, especially after I had the experience of firing both the handguns and the rifle, the more I thought about how common it is to own or fire guns.
If handling a gun safely requires this many rules, doesn’t that show that guns are extremely dangerous to begin with? And since so many people can be so reckless in life (just think about something as simple as refusing to wear masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19), should something this dangerous be readily available in society?
After I left the range, I thought back to how incredibly careful my Uncle was about his guns, and I wondered how many people are as responsible as he is.
I was glad I got the chance to take ten shots with each of the three guns we fired, especially since I had never had this kind of experience before. The overall experience did not make me completely comfortable personally with guns, or make me less worried about the fact that there are so many guns in our society, but it will definitely be an important and memorable part of my time at Wake.