Collected Posts on Sociology of Guns Seminar

In Fall 2021, I will teach my “Sociology of Guns” seminar at Wake Forest University for the seventh consecutive academic year, dating back to the fall of 2015. A PDF of the course syllabus for Version 7.0 is available HERE, and links to each of the course modules are available below.

Over the years, I have posted a number of times on this blog and my older Gun Culture 2.0 blog about this seminar. This entry collects those earlier posts — from both blogs — including many written by students in the class.

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It Was a Positive Experience to Experiment with Firearms in a Safe and Controlled Environment (Fall 2021 Student Range Visit Reflection #7)

This is the seventh of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2021 Sociology of Guns seminar (see reflection #1, reflection #2, reflection #3, reflection #4, reflection #5, and reflection #6). 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.

By Adam Porth

Ever since I was little, my dad always taught me about gun safety and how to act around guns. Starting with nerf guns, all the way up to his prized Remington 870s, I was taught about the great pleasure that shooting guns can be if I follow all the rules to make sure myself and everyone around me were safe.

When it came to the field trip, however, I felt like half of the knowledge I had saved up over the years about gun safety had dwindled. As someone who handles guns relatively frequently, I was surprised to find out that I barely knew how to operate a simple .22 pistol that was so similar to the one I own at home. From this, I felt that no matter how acclimated you are (or think you are) to guns, there is still a rather startling feeling about picking up a new gun for the first time.

The author shooting at Veterans Range, September 2021. Photo by David Yamane
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I Came Into This Experience with a Very Negative View of Guns (Fall 2021 Student Range Visit Reflection #6)

This is the sixth of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2021 Sociology of Guns seminar (see reflection #1, reflection #2, reflection #3, reflection #4, and reflection #5). 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.

By Kierra Law

Overall, I would say that my experience going to the gun range did not fit with my prior understanding of guns in the U.S.

Our field trip to the gun range was my first experience handling a gun. I appreciated this trip because it made me realize some things that I had not realized before. There were also parts of the experience that I enjoyed and parts that still made me feel uncomfortable being around guns.

The author shooting at Veterans Range, September 2021. Photo by David Yamane
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I Find It Disturbing that Guns are So Accessible (Fall 2021 Student Range Visit Reflection #5)

This is the fifth of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2021 Sociology of Guns seminar (see reflection #1, reflection #2, reflection #3, and reflection #4). 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.

By Claire Hunt

Prior to our trip to the gun range I had little experience with guns and held a deep fear of them.

Growing up in the public school system, after Columbine and during the years of Sandy Hook and Stoneman Douglas, I grew up accustomed to regular active shooter drills and terror over becoming prey in the classroom. I participated in student-led rallies post Stoneman Douglas that demonstrated the frustration and hopelessness we as students felt everyday in school over the fear of experiencing a school shooting.

This fear however was not limited to schools. Living in Charleston, South Carolina I experienced the heartbreak of the Emanuel shooting and constantly feared that similar terror would occur in my own church where our inclusivity has made us a target of hatred in the past.

I have developed an anxiety of being in large groups, going to movie theaters, church, or being anywhere that I believed could be the location of the next mass shooting. I now find myself both consciously and unconsciously establishing an escape route and making a plan of action when entering into a new environment in the case there were to be an active shooter situation. While I believe this to be safe and proactive thinking, it is also a burden that I believe my generation carries more than any other generation because of the gun environment we grew up in.

The argument over gun legislation and regulation in the United States is multifaceted and there are a range of perspectives, some of which I agree with and others which anger me. I do however find great value in learning more about the things I am fearful of or passionate about and the trip to the gun range presented a great opportunity to gain a better understanding of guns.

So while I associate guns with terror and mass shootings from the environment I was raised in, I also recognize their presence in America and the ownership of them by normal, sane people. 

The author shooting at Veterans Range, September 2021. Photo by David Yamane
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Guns Can Be Understood and Respected as Dangerous, Useful, and Recreational (Fall 2021 Student Range Visit Reflection #4)

This is the fourth of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2021 Sociology of Guns seminar (see reflection #1, reflection #2, and reflection #3). 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.

By Dalton Collins

My understanding of firearms in my life has always been that they are primarily tools, regardless of their ability to maim and kill. They are tools by which we can hunt and defend ourselves. Despite this, it has always been important to treat them with the utmost respect in order to handle them safely. Like many other tools they can be used for recreation.

Shooting guns is fun. There is an adrenaline component to the sound and recoil as well as a satisfaction found hitting a target.

Our trip to the range was the first time I have fired a gun in over a year. Despite how fun guns can be, I do not tend to find myself wanting to fire them. In fact, I have spent more time considering my opinions on gun control than handling firearms. in the US.

The author shooting at Veterans Range, September 2021. Photo by David Yamane
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Exhilarating Normalcy (Fall 2021 Student Range Visit Reflection #3)

This is the third of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2021 Sociology of Guns seminar (see reflection #1 and reflection #2). 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.

By Hannah Coates

My experience at Veterans Range was surprising to me in more ways than one. Not only was the gun range different than I anticipated in appearance, structure, and regulation, but the act of shooting a gun was also eye-opening in comparison to my expectations, all in all expanding upon my prior understanding of guns in the US.

The author shooting at Veterans Range, September 2021. Photo by David Yamane
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Mixed Emotions and Complicated Views (Fall 2021 Student Range Visit Reflection #2)

This is the second of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2021 Sociology of Guns seminar (see reflection #1). 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.

By Mary Clark

As a self-identified “flaming liberal”, guns and gun ownership have always been a topic I am opposed to. Though, as a politics major, I strive to better understand both sides—rather all dimensions— of a complex topic like guns in the United States. My prior understanding of guns has stemmed from sensationalized news headlines and youth lead movements against gun violence, particularly with the rise of consistent and well documented school shooting incidents.

If you ever were to look at the news, or come out from the rock you’ve been hiding under, you would instantly find that the topic of guns is a complex and very personal issue for many Americans. As a young woman who grew up in a blue county of a red state, I understand that there are nuances to this debate that often get pushed aside for the sake of argument. Going to the Mocksville Veterans Gun Range complicated my view and understanding of my belief and opinions on this topic.

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I’m Surprised This Trip and Class is Allowed (Fall 2021 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.

By Caleb Brinkley

To preface, I enjoyed the class range trip and thought it went well.  My circumstances are different from other students in several ways, notably in experience and physical considerations.  I have a relatively extensive background in the gun community with a focus on competition and training that extends beyond the level of the average American gun owner.  Thus, what was unique about the range trip for me wasn’t the shooting per se, but the context in which it occurred in.  The shooting itself was introductory level, as appropriate for the students since the majority had little experience with firearms. 

The author shooting at Veterans Range, September 2021. Photo by David Yamane
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Student Gun Range Field Trip Reflection Essays for Fall 2021 Forthcoming

Later today, I will begin posting some of the field trip reflection essays my Sociology of Guns students were required to submit following our visit to Veterans Range at the start of this semester.

The field trip is historically a highlight of the course for students, and the reflection essays among the most popular items I post to my blogs every year (previous student reflections can be found on my Sociology of Guns collected posts page).

The essays provide interesting insights into the experience and thoughts of young adults who for the most part are not invested in, or even familiar with, guns and gun culture. They are gun curious.

Sociology of Guns student at Veterans Range, Fall 2020
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Sociology of Guns Field Trip to Gun Range, September 2021

Although the remnants of Hurricane Ida forced a last minute rescheduling, my Fall 2021 Sociology of Guns seminar students completed their mandatory field trip to the gun range on September 3rd.

This is the 7th time I have taught the course and the 7th successful field trip we have taken as a class. All the students left the range with the same number of holes in their bodies as they arrived with, plus some experience handling and shooting live firearms.

Although guns are always a Rorschach test of sorts and students’ preexisting understandings heavily influence the conclusions they draw about guns at the end of the course, having an experiential basis upon which to discuss firearms and shooting is foundational to our consideration of the role of guns in American society.

In the coming days, I will (as before) post some of the students’ field trip reflection essays on this blog. They have historically been among the most popular items I post, so stay tuned!

Sociology of Guns student firing a .22 pistol during field trip to Veterans Range, September 2021. Photo by David Yamane
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