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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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.
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Sociology of Guns Seminar Student Final Reflection #6: I Completely Stripped Down My Stance

As noted earlier, the final assignment of the semester in my Sociology of Guns seminar is for the students to write an essay reflecting on their personal experience with and understanding of guns in light of what they learned in the course (full text of the assignment is here).

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

Sociology of Guns student range visit. Photo by Sandra Stroud Yamane
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“Baby with a Handgun” by BiP

While in San Francisco for the American Society of Criminology meetings this week, my sister sent me an Instagram post by the anonymous graffiti artist BiP (“Believe in People”). It unveiled an eight story tall mural he recently completed in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of the city (Franklin and Oak Streets, just off Market if you’re looking).

The mural was so striking and provocative, I had to walk the mile from the Marriott to see it.

“Baby with a Handgun” by BiP, photo by David Yamane

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