As noted earlier, 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 fourth of several such essays, written by a student whose initial reflections on our field trip to the gun range can be found here. (Link to the first, second, and third reflection essays.)
By Dalton Collins
I began this class by attending the gun range field trip and then reflecting on my experiences during it. I come from a gun owning family, but the role of guns for my parents has always been self-defense. When my father was a lone-wolf bachelor he kept a loaded gun in his home and subsequently in our home after he met my mother and had my brother and me. I grew up being semi-aware that we had guns, but it was not until my grandfather fell ill with Parkinson’s disease and began to give out inheritance that guns became something of interest to me.
Gradually, guns became something for recreation, but before my parents would allow us to hold a loaded gun we had to be educated. My firearm education began at the local police station, then I attended a hunting and firearms safety class, and my education culminated in my dad talking to us about gun safety before allowing us to shoot for the first time. From this point on guns took on a recreational part in my life through target shooting and skeet. Early in my college career I would actively go casually shooting with my high school friends. When COVID hit I lost interest in guns, and they returned to being a tool for self-defense to me.
My firearm politics have always been supportive of the Second Amendment. I believe in rigorous and sufficient firearms education to ensure safe handling. I am not opposed to required gun courses in American high schools. I support the right to concealed carry, but I also think that the process to purchase a gun should be rigorous.
These views were disorganized until I began this class. After the range field trip, I began to consider what I believe about firearms and their place in society. As with my first reflection, I still believe they are dangerous, should be respected, and those who own them should know how to use them safely. Rob Pincus brought to my attention the risks of storing firearms. After he spoke to us, I added safe storage to my beliefs.
When the writing assignment was first assigned, I knew I wanted to look at self-defense. I have always been casually curious about the degree to which self-defense has any effect on crime. From my perspective, the left views self-defense with guns as dangerous in and out of the criminal situation. On the reverse side, the right views good guys with guns as the only way to stop bad guys with them. For my paper I wanted to escape politics and come to understand how the millions of guns in millions of hands in the United States do or do not contribute to self-defense.
While my opinions on guns have not necessarily changed, they have instead strengthened, my knowledge of them has increased tenfold. I delved deep into the available literature to understand defensive gun use in the United States. My paper ultimately created more questions than answers, but I came out of it with a new understanding of self-defense in the United States.
Going forward I want to keep up with emerging data and research on defensive gun use. I want to see an agreement reached within the field on how best to measure it. Already I have been able to talk about my knowledge of it with friends and family. Even pro-gun family members doubt the prevalence of defensive gun use.
With my own personal relationship to guns, my research has led me to desire owning a defensive firearm and possibly a concealed carry permit when I move into an apartment for law school. I feel educated on firearm safety and usage which makes me want to have one for peace of mind and possibly self-defense if the need arises.
I still have not regained my fondness for recreational usage of firearms, but I appreciate the role they have played in my life. In addition, I hope to see liberal gun owners more forthcoming. As someone who is left leaning, it makes me feel more confident in my views to see others embracing firearms. I do not believe guns should be a right-wing thing. In my view they are way too politicized, and having this view challenged in class has changed my perceptions. Going forward, I would also like to see more research on liberal, LGBT, and people of color gun owners in the United States. I think by understanding these “atypical” gun owners and the role of defensive firearm use in the United States we can have a full picture for policy making decisions.