As noted yesterday, the final assignment of the semester in my Sociology of Guns seminar is for the students to write an essay reflecting on their personal experience with and understanding of guns in light of what they learned in the course.
Here is the first of several such essays, written by a student whose initial reflections on our field trip to the gun range can be found here.
By Caleb Brinkley
I began the year not knowing what to expect from this class. At the start of the semester after the initial class range-trip, my biggest initial takeaway was surprise towards the fact of attending a range session with Wake Forest students in an academic setting. To a large extent, I feel the same now as I did then. My relative position is different compared to most students insofar as I already had beliefs of where guns fit into society prior to taking the course due to my experiences with firearms and involvement in the gun community. Generally speaking, my beliefs are the same now as they were then. However, my political beliefs tend to confine me to a certain demographic ruled by the Garand Thumbs and Lucas Botkins of the gun community; if nothing else, Sociology of Guns forced me to take a good look at other sections of our community that I was aware existed but never actually paid attention to.
Liberal Gun Owners is a good example of this. Political differences aside, I found the anthropological approach to be intuitive, and from what I’ve seen, much of their philosophical background bears several similarities to my own, both of us invoking Lockian Natural Law, for example, as one of the foundational pillars explaining weapons and self-defense. Liberal Gun Owners provided me with some of their unreleased literature to read; it is quite long and comprehensive, so I haven’t yet had the time to look at it due to the chaos of this semester. However, I’m excited to look at it over winter break, as I don’t see much scholarly work in the gun community. Simply finding out that this kind of academic material exists on a topic I am passionate about was illuminating.
The intersection of the gun world and academia is something I never expected to see- the crowds associated with both don’t typically intermesh. I found the gun culture studies we read to be particularly interesting too, as all the academic literature pertaining to guns, I had been exposed to prior attacked the subject with a prejudice against it, usually conducting the study with the aim at producing a result in favor of additional gun legislation rather than letting the data itself point towards the right solution.
Learning about the distinction between gun culture 1.0 and gun culture 2.0 was quite interesting to me as well; the shift between the two is one I had noticed anecdotally myself and was reflected in my initial essay, but seeing that actual literature supported my hunch with real, quantitative data was pretty cool, for lack of a better phrase. I found it interesting to see how much of gun culture 2.0 accurately characterized my own introduction to firearms.
I suspect that for most the class, the culture literature was viewed from external eyes inwards; from my perspective, I effectively am the subject being studied and I found that, often, the studies were correct in that they matched up closely with my own beliefs and experiences. It is one thing to verify the validity of a study empirically; it is another to verify it from personal experience qualitatively.
I found the wide range of speakers to add immense value to the class. The speakers who came really represented a wide breadth of the actual diversity of the gun community; Randy Miyan and Craig Douglas, for example, certainly represent the contrast and spectrum of personalities in our sphere. I appreciate the effort to bring subject-matter-experts to address various topics; I think these efforts were successful and very informative. One thing that struck me though was the apparent baseline commonality of belief between all of those who visited despite their diversity in other attributes. While we didn’t always dive into the politics of each guest, from what I saw, all generally seemed to be pro-gun in the context of gun-culture 2.0, buying into ideas of self-defense and the concept of an armed citizenry. This gives me some hope that perhaps one day gun rights might no longer be a partisan issue.
Going forward, my outlook on guns and how I treat them hasn’t really changed. Nonetheless, the class forced me to examine areas of the gun community I previously ignored and exposed me to new, growing subsections that I’m excited to explore further and see where they go.
Sociology of Guns has been one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had at Wake Forest, and I hope the department continues to allow this class to be offered.