“Like Many Aspects of Life, You Actually Need to DO It” (Fall 2022 Student Range Visit Reflection #8)

This is the eighth of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2022 Sociology of Guns seminar (see reflection #1 and reflection #2 and reflection #3 and reflection #4 and reflection #5 and 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.

Sociology of Guns student at the range, Fall 2022. Photo by Sandra Stroud Yamane

By Connor Stanley

When I arrived at the gun range, I was oddly nervous for the next 45 minutes. Until this field trip, I had never touched a gun, let alone shot one. I watched all the training videos and took careful notes, but much like many aspects of life, you need to actually do it. I can watch as many videos as I want about gun safety, but actually shooting a gun is a very different experience.

When I first walked into the gun range, I could not believe its simplicity. Nothing much more than a little shack in the back, a fence, and a few signs about gun safety. That was it. I always imagined a gun range being “state of the art,” with heavy barriers separating every lane and shiny new targets for every participant. Again, it was nothing more than some pavement showing where each lane was, a mound of mud absorbing the bullet, and paper targets.

Something about this simplicity made me more nervous as everything we do has features to prevent injuries and mistakes. Cars made in 2022 have blindspot monitoring, lane sensors, and even a scanner that knows when the driver’s eyes are off the road. There were none of these new technologies: just the gun and the shooter, much like a 1980s car.

When I was handed the first gun, I was surprised by how heavy it was. I took my time getting comfortable holding it and trying to control my breathing. When I pulled the trigger, I hit the target and cursed simultaneously. When I apologized for cursing, Professor Yamane understood that my reaction was incredibly normal. I could not believe how fast the bullet traveled and how loud the gun was. However, what disturbed me was how accurate it was. Yes, I would like to consider myself a good athlete and somewhat coordinated. However, the fact that I hit the metal target 9 out of 10 times really scared me. My mind just went to the worst-case scenario: what if someone who shouldn’t have a gun has one? I know I should not think like this, but unfortunately, we live in a society where gun-related atrocities occur frequently.

Sociology of Guns student at the range, Fall 2022. Photo by Sandra Stroud Yamane

Overall, I really enjoyed my experience. I never thought I would shoot a gun before because no one in my family owns a gun and has never expressed any interest in going to a range. I think part of the reason I was so nervous going to the range was that I had only heard about guns negatively. It seems like every time I turn on the news, there is some tragedy involving guns. After going to the range, I frankly don’t know where I stand on guns. I better understood the appeal of having and shooting a gun as I left the range with a huge smile and so much energy.

However, for the time being, I cannot get the inner voice about how dangerous these objects are out of my head. Thanks to Professor Yamane’s expertise and patience, everything went incredibly smoothly. I think everyone in my group had a wonderful experience. However, I know that not every gun user practices this type of gun safety. I think the more someone uses a gun, the less they worry about how deadly they are. This could be an inaccurate thought, but I think of shooting a gun as like cooking in an oven. The first time I used an oven, I was very afraid of burning myself. However, after a few uses, these fears subsided very quickly. I feel like shooting a gun is similar. A gun owner may feel like a pro and skip some steps in gun safety.

I cannot express how much fun I had at the range. It was something I will never forget. Now, I have to do some deeper thinking about guns in our country. I think this field trip reaffirmed some of my thoughts about how guns are a part of our country, and that they are not going anywhere. I can accept this. Will I ever personally own a gun? Probably not, but I am not as afraid of holding one now. I think, as a country, we need to understand the power of these machines. As someone who was very nervous about going to a range and shooting a gun, I understand why people enjoy it now. However, I would hope that someone who is a gun owner could understand why others have differing views about gun regulation.

5 thoughts on ““Like Many Aspects of Life, You Actually Need to DO It” (Fall 2022 Student Range Visit Reflection #8)

  1. Another good report from someone with the integrity to actually try something to make their opinion more informed.

    I would point out that while familiarity may lead to taking things more casually, as an athlete I’m sure he realizes that repetition can also, is used in fact, to make certain responses ingrained and automatic, so they don’t have to be consciously thought of, simply performed properly every time. Gun safety is like that as well, you perform repetitions to the degree that safety becomes automatic. Fingers are never on a trigger unless the sights are on an appropriate target. The muzzle is never pointed at something you do not intend to shoot. Every gun is always handled as if it was loaded, even when known to be cleared, except as deliberately necessary for cleaning, or other administrative or training tasks. The exceptions are what take conscious deliberate thought.

    Those of us with years of conscious repetition often find ourselves following the safe handling rules with anything even remotely gunlike, such as electric drills and other tools.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kudos to Mr. Stanley for getting past his initial nervousness and preconceptions to take the opportunity to experience guns firsthand. He’s right to respect the power of guns — they are designed to inflict grievous harm on the intended target.

    Regarding his concerns over safety, consider that, with at least 80 million gun owners and 400 million guns, only around 400 accidental gun deaths occur each year. Most of those involve illegally possessed firearms; for 2019, the Gun Violence Archive recorded only a dozen hunting accident deaths, and only three deaths from holstering mishaps (two of those LEOs reholstering while driving.)

    And yes, *informed* differing opinions should always be respected, fresh perspectives welcomed.

    Liked by 1 person

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