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.
Firearms are here to stay. Just as we encourage safe sex rather than abstinence to reduce the burden of teenage pregnancy, we can encourage safe firearm storage rather than simply discouraging firearm ownership altogether in our efforts to reduce gun violence.
I learn something every semester from each of my students, but one student’s work this semester was more of a revelation to me. Bevin Burns drew on her experience promoting sexual health and education on college campuses to highlight some potential negative consequences of adopting an abstinence-based approach to gun safety education.
This really resonated with me because I have noted the two different approaches to gun safety: safety WITH guns vs. safety FROM guns. The #gunsafety and #gunsense movement is really promoting the gun equivalent to “abstinence only” sex education, and we know how well that worked over the years.
I was privileged to be invited recently to contribute to an ongoing series of videos produced by the Duke Center for Firearms Law on COVID-19 and guns.
I was asked to speak about my approach to studying guns, to speculate about why people are buying guns during the COVID-19 pandemic, what misconceptions people have about gun acquisition, and what advice I have for new guns owners.
Motivated by those who would reduce gun culture in the United States to the National Rifle Association (NRA), I have tried as much as possible to think and write about gun culture without paying too much attention to the NRA. In fact, when I sent out a book proposal a while ago, one of the reviewers took me to task for not discussing the NRA enough.
I have a couple of reasons for downplaying the NRA in my work.
This student’s background was familiar to me as I meet many women whose grandfathers, fathers, and brothers hunt but whose grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and themselves do not. So, although her father and brother hunted together, she had never fired a gun before this field trip.
Mother and daughter shooting at Veterans Range, Mocksville, NC. Photo by David Yamane
My Sociology of Guns seminar’s annual field trip to the gun range is such a highlight that I sometimes wonder if I should do it at the end of class rather than the beginning. The class really is all down hill after visiting the range.
This semester my 15 students and I once again made the short drive from Wake Forest University to ProShots Range in Rural Hall, North Carolina.