“You Might Be The Last Person I Would Ever Expect to Do That” (Fall 2022 Student Range Visit Reflection #1)

This is the first of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2021 Sociology of Guns seminar. 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.

Sociology of Guns student shooting during range field trip, Fall 2022. Photo by Sandra Stroud Yamane

By Amelia Baker

Before going on this trip, I mentioned it to a few of my friends and family. Most of them either didn’t believe me or thought I was joking. When I told them it was true and I was really going to a shooting range, I got a nearly identical response across the board; “You might be the last person I would ever expect to do that.”

This sentiment was one that even I shared myself. I never pictured myself ever holding a gun, let alone setting foot on a shooting range. I would consider myself a strong advocate of gun control, and in general, a person who dislikes guns. However, I am also committed to becoming a more informed sociologist and human being. To better understand the crisis of gun violence and mass shootings, I know that a holistic and multifaceted perspective on gun usage and ownership is essential. Which led me to this course, and subsequently, to the Veteran’s Gun Range of Mocksville, NC.

I entered the range feeling nervous but determined to maintain an open mind. I appreciated that the environment felt supportive and calm. There were multiple things that surprised me throughout our experience; initially, I was surprised by how loud the sound of the guns firing was. I felt my heart rate increase each time a shot was fired. I was also surprised at how heavy the guns were. I had imagined them being able to be carried around and whipped out with ease. I was surprised by how much effort and precision it took to hit the targets. I have only ever seen guns used in movies, and my perception prior to the visit was that it was relatively easy for anybody to pick up a gun and shoot something in an instant. It took me a few tries to be able to properly line it up. Another surprise came with how quickly I got the hang of using the guns. After firing a few rounds, I started to feel less anxious, and more focused. I felt satisfied when I hit the target multiple times in a row, which I hadn’t expected.

Sociology of Guns student shooting during range field trip, Fall 2022. Photo by Sandra Stroud Yamane

A thought that continuously crossed my mind was how catastrophic it would have been if the guns were aimed at a human being. Watching the explosion go off in front of me and the speed with which the bullet reached the targets, I kept revisiting the thought that this is a mechanism that has been used millions of times to take a human life. While I’ve thought about the detrimental impacts of guns on countless occasions, especially after mass shootings and tragic instances of gun violence, it was even more salient when I was the one pulling the trigger. The destructive power that the machines hold was a fact I was acutely aware of throughout our time at the range.

Taking into consideration these surprises and unsettling realities, this experience both did and did not fit into my prior understanding of guns. Although I wouldn’t say my opinion on guns has taken a 180-degree turn, I would say that I have a further understanding of safe gun ownership and why some individuals might use guns for enjoyment or leisure.

It also provided insight into why some people who consider themselves safe gun owners feel deeply protective over their Second Amendment rights. My perspective on guns has always been that they are scary and threatening, and while this experience pushed me out of my comfort zone, it was neither of those things.

In this way, as well as taking into consideration the many aforementioned surprises, there were ways in which this trip did not fit with my prior understanding of guns. However, my general concerns about gun violence and gun usage were affirmed after personally utilizing the gun and experiencing the sensation of pulling the trigger.

Overall, I learned a lot throughout the trip, and I’m glad that I was able to have this unique experience. 

15 thoughts on ““You Might Be The Last Person I Would Ever Expect to Do That” (Fall 2022 Student Range Visit Reflection #1)

  1. I wonder if Dr. Yamane begins his semester with a discussion on The Allegory of the Cave as a starter on past perceptions and current realities. I often do when I am guest speaking and become aware that a room is full of staunch preconceived perspectives. It tends to soften and open the minds…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As a practicing sociologist (marketing researcher to be exact) I admire your commitment to keeping an open mind regarding the experience. As Professor Yamane has said repeatedly, firearm ownership is complex and includes almost endless segments.

    While I’m a Liberal Gun Owner, who supports reasonable controls over the availability of firearms and regulations, it is still imperative to avoid the trap of making snap judgements and using biases and faulty logic to understand this very large segment of the US population.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: “I Surprised Myself with My Openness and Enjoyment of the Activity” (Fall 2022 Student Range Visit Reflection #2) | Gun Curious

  4. Pingback: A Singular Word to Describe My Experience at the Gun Range: Liberating (Fall 2022 Student Range Visit Reflection #3) | Gun Curious

  5. I applaud you taking the time, and having a mostly open mind to try something out of your comfort zone. As a student of sociology one of the things to consider is the social aspect of gun ownership. Every time I go to the range I meet nice, and helpful people. Sharing ideas on techniques, and equipment is always part of the learning process. Most of all, safety is paramount to any range experience. It’s not the Wild West that some people think it is.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: “The Gun Felt More Like a Dangerous Tool Instead of the Killing Machine I Thought It Was” (Fall 2022 Student Range Visit Reflection #4) | Gun Curious

  7. Pingback: Collected Posts on Sociology of Guns Seminar (Updated 9/22) | Gun Curious

  8. Pingback: Unfamiliar Part of Gun Culture Breaks Through to My Consciousness – Gun Culture 2.0

  9. Pingback: “My Previous Beliefs about Guns in the US Were Amplified” (Fall 2022 Student Range Visit Reflection #5) | Gun Curious

  10. Pingback: “I Absolutely Loved It!” (Fall 2022 Student Range Visit Reflection #6) | Gun Curious

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