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 Don’t Kill People, Systemic Inequality Does

Another day in America, another pile of bodies, and another set of cries for gun control. Predictably, the Atlanta and Boulder and Indianapolis mass public shootings were followed by calls to ban AR-style rifles. President Biden proposes to subject “ghost guns” to background checks and place pistol-stabilizing braces under the National Firearms Act as short-barreled rifles.

This marks a return to the old, pre-pandemic normal in America in which extremely rare cases of large-scale homicide bring efforts to regulate guns and gun parts in ways so general they are unlikely to have the desired effect of dramatically reducing gun violence.

As tragic as they are, overemphasis on these dramatic but rare events diverts our attention from the vast majority of homicides which involve fewer than four victims, victims who are shot with regular old handguns that are acquired in transactions not covered by criminal background checks.

Having studied American gun culture for a decade now, I find myself returning repeatedly to an important truth: Everyday gun violence in the United States is concentrated in places and among people that are most affected by economic and racial inequality. Efforts to reduce this violence should, therefore, be equally concentrated on addressing its causes in these same areas. Doing so shifts efforts at intervention away from guns per se, a move that allows us to circumvent federal gridlock on gun legislation and as well as legal challenges to gun regulation. We can carve a political path forward right now by decoupling violence reduction from gun control.

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Are Mass Public Shootings Seasonal? (Corrected)

***CORRECTION: A FACEBOOK READER noticed something in the Mother Jones data I presented recently that I had missed. Beginning in 2013, MJ changed their definition of a mass public shooting from 4 or more victims to 3 or more victims in 2013 (see more below), but did not retroactively update their database. Although not deceptive (they said plainly they were doing this, I simply missed it), this is methodologically problematic. So I eliminated those cases, which reduces the total number in the database from 114 incidents to 95, and re-did the chart here.***

Gun trainer Rob Pincus texted to ask me tonight if I had any source for data on the seasonality of mass shooting activity. I.e., mass shootings by month.

I did not, but I was intrigued enough by the idea to do a little work when I got home tonight. The fruit of that labor is below. Important notes and interpretive points follow the chart.

Mass Shootings by Month Corrected

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