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 sixth 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, third, fourth, and fifth reflection essays.)
By Kierra Law
Coming into this class, I had minimal knowledge about guns. However, I have learned a lot from our trip to the gun range, our readings, class discussions, and my research project. My previous exposure to guns was primarily through the media, which mostly paints firearms as bad. However, I learned in this class that guns are normal and that the gun culture is much more complex than it seems.
First, I was very interested in learning about the history of guns because I had never considered how the gun culture has changed over time. I was not very surprised to learn that Gun Culture 2.0 is centered around self-defense because most of the people I know who own guns have them for self-defense.
However, I was somewhat surprised but very interested to learn about new gun owners and groups that I would not have typically thought of when it comes to gun owners (women, minorities, people in the LGBTQ+ community, and liberal gun owners). I appreciated that there was some focus on these groups that we typically do not hear about in discourse about gun culture. I plan to look into some of the organizations and read some of the books you mentioned in class to learn more about them.
I also loved that we were able to consider actual world events and examine how they impact gun culture. In particular, I enjoyed learning about how gun culture has shifted recently because of the pandemic. This is an area that I am also interested in learning more about.
One of the most valuable parts of this class was listening to the guest speakers who are immersed in gun culture and asking them questions. I appreciated this because it’s important for me to be open to perspectives that may differ from my own. It was also helpful to hear from some of the people whose works we read or listened to because I was able to get a clearer understanding of their stance on issues within the gun world. While I did not necessarily agree with all of their stances on gun issues, I still learned something from each of them, and through that process, I gained a better understanding of my own stance on guns and issues concerning firearms in the U.S.
My research project was also very meaningful because I was able to research racial disparities in officer-involved shootings, which is an issue that is very important to me. This process was enlightening because I think that police violence against people of color using firearms has played a considerable role in my hesitance about guns, mainly because I had a family member who was racially profiled and held at gunpoint by a police officer. Although I wanted to do my research project on a more positive aspect of gun culture, I kept coming back to this topic because it is so close to home. I am glad that I learned more about the issue and possible ways to address it. After completing this project, I was inspired, and I was able to take what I learned and apply it to a research study proposal that I recently wrote for my psychology of race and ethnicity class. My proposed study would look at the effectiveness of incorporating programming centered on intersectionality into officer training in reducing racial disparities in officer-involved shootings.
Before this class, I had never handled a firearm, and I was very intimidated by them because I live in an area where gun violence is prevalent. I have family members who own guns and have them in the household because they work in security and own them for self-defense; however, we have never talked about them, and I did not even know where they were kept until I was in high school. Growing up, I never thought to ask them about their views on guns. This class has made me more interested in talking to my family members about what guns mean to them, their views on gun policies and regulations, and other areas of gun culture.
I never had any interest in guns. However, in the last year, as I started thinking about living alone after graduation, I began considering whether I should purchase a handgun for self-defense. As a woman, and particularly as a black woman, I always have to consider ways to protect myself as I move through a world where my identity may make me a target. After going to the gun range, I feel more comfortable with the idea of owning a gun. However, I still think that if I were to purchase a gun, I would not feel comfortable carrying it outside of my home.
I want to go to the gun range to get more experience and learn more about firearm safety. I also think that I would like to talk to more people of color and female gun owners to understand better what owning a firearm would mean for me. To feel comfortable making informed decisions about a gun, it is also imperative for me to learn more about gun laws and regulations where I live. I know we talked about some laws in class, but this area still seems pretty complex and unfamiliar to me, and I need to learn more.
Moving forward, I want to continue learning about guns and their roles in society, and I hope to gain more clarity on whether purchasing a firearm would be a good decision for me. Thank you for a great class this semester, Dr. Yamane.