Sociology of Guns Module 10: Police Use of Force

Questions and controversies around police use of force are not new, but have been animated by a spate of high profile cases in recent years resulting in the death of black Americans, including Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, and of course, George Floyd.

Although there is plenty of evidence of racism in our criminal justice system (as Radley Balko exhaustively documents, h/t Khal), and these cases are for many prima facie evidence of the same, as a sociologist I still cling to Peter Berger’s contention that “the first wisdom of sociology is this – things are not what they seem.” Of course, they may be what they seem, but our job is not to assume but rather to dig deeper.

This module tries to answer the question, What does the best contemporary scholarship tell us about police use of force, and especially racial disparities in use of force?

In addition to our reading (helpfully suggested by top policing scholars Justin Nix, Michael Sierra-Arevalo, and Kyle McLean), I am pleased to again welcome 21 year veteran of law enforcement, notably undercover narcotics work, and leading self-defense trainer Craig Douglas who will bring his Experiential Learning Lab to class.

Students role playing in a police use of force scenario created by trainer Craig Douglas, Sociology of Guns Seminar, Spring 2019.
Continue reading

Prepping for Sociology of Guns Ver 7.0

It’s hard to believe that I first taught my “Sociology of Guns” seminar at Wake Forest six years ago, in the fall of 2015. This fall I will teach the course for the seventh time in seven academic years.

Although some aspects of the course do not change — the class field trip to the gun range, most importantly — I do try to tweak the courses materials from year to year to reflect my own interests and developments in the field of gun studies.

Following are the broad outlines of where I am going with the Sociology of Guns Ver 7.0 this fall, including some guest lecturers who will be reprising their previous visits.

Professor Yamane with Wake Forest student at field trip to Veterans Range, Mocksville, NC. Photo by Robin Lindner/RLI Media
Continue reading

Sociology of Guns Class Student Final Reflection #5

As noted previously, for the final assignment of the semester in my Sociology of Guns Seminar in Spring 2019, students were asked to write a 1,000 to 2,000 word essay in which they would:

revisit your previous personal experience with and understanding of guns in the U.S. (as expressed, e.g., in the field trip reflection essay) in light of your consideration of the role guns actually do play in American society. Reflecting on what you learned from completing your major writing assignment, as well as the class more generally, discuss how your mind has (and/or has not) changed. Conclude this paper by considering what more you need to know in order to make informed choices about your own participation with and the place of guns in the communities in which you live and will live in the future.

Here is the fifth of several such essays (see the first, second, third, and fourth), written by a student whose initial reflections on our field trip to the gun range can be found here.

Continue reading

Sociology of Guns Class Student Final Reflection #4

As noted previously, for the final assignment of the semester in my Sociology of Guns Seminar in Spring 2019, students were asked to write a 1,000 to 2,000 word essay in which they would:

revisit your previous personal experience with and understanding of guns in the U.S. (as expressed, e.g., in the field trip reflection essay) in light of your consideration of the role guns actually do play in American society. Reflecting on what you learned from completing your major writing assignment, as well as the class more generally, discuss how your mind has (and/or has not) changed. Conclude this paper by considering what more you need to know in order to make informed choices about your own participation with and the place of guns in the communities in which you live and will live in the future.

Here is the fourth of several such essays (see the first, second, and third), written by a student whose initial reflections on our field trip to the gun range can be found here. (As before, the student wishes to remain anonymous.)

Richard Talbert of ProShots Range speaking to Sociology of Guns students, Spring 2019. Photo by David Yamane

Continue reading

Sociology of Guns Class Student Final Reflection #1

As noted yesterday, for the final assignment of the semester in my Sociology of Guns Seminar in Spring 2019, students were asked to write a 1,000 to 2,000 word essay in which they would:

revisit your previous personal experience with and understanding of guns in the U.S. (as expressed, e.g., in the field trip reflection essay) in light of your consideration of the role guns actually do play in American society. Reflecting on what you learned from completing your major writing assignment, as well as the class more generally, discuss how your mind has (and/or has not) changed. Conclude this paper by considering what more you need to know in order to make informed choices about your own participation with and the place of guns in the communities in which you live and will live in the future.

Here is the first of several such essays, written by a student whose initial reflections on our field trip to the gun range can be found here.

Student Katherine Cassidy with trainer Craig Douglas of Shivworks in Sociology of Guns Seminar, Spring 2019.

Continue reading