The idea that guns are a risk factor – for homicide, suicide, accidental death, and injury – was a central idea at the gun violence prevention writers workshop I attended in Hartford earlier this month (see Light Over Heat #15 and Light Over Heat #16). This week I reflect more broadly on the role of risk in our lives.
I am risk-averse in certain ways, but in other ways, I take risks all the time. Notably, drinking alcohol which has many well-documented short-term and long-term health risks. Rather than always trying to avoid risk, perhaps we should, in gun trainer Will Petty’s terms, think of risk as a currency that we get to choose how to spend?
In spending our risk wisely, we need to be thoughtful risk analysts and wise risk managers. In bringing firearms into their homes and lives, gun owners are assuming a certain amount of risk for themselves and their loved ones.
This raises the question: Are gun owners thoughtful risk analysts for their own lives?
Now that I have been wandering around American gun culture for over a decade, I consume fewer gun-related podcasts than I used to. Time is my scarcest resource and as podcasts have proliferated, the signal-to-noise ratio is often too low to merit the investment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 am a risk-averse person. When a friend from high school told me he was thinking of leaving his secure job with an established software company to join a startup, I thought it was too risky. He had a young family to worry about and the startup’s business model was terrible. Why would anyone wait to receive DVD movie rentals in the mail when they could get them right away at the many Blockbuster Video stores on their way to or from work? Cryptocurrency? No, thank you. Apple stock? Overpriced. I don’t drive fast, don’t ride my bike without a helmet, don’t jump out of planes or off cliffs, don’t like boats or ATVs, don’t drink to excess, don’t pick fights. Whenever possible, I try to limit my exposure to unnecessary risk.
At first glance, the following quote from sociologist and gun critic Jonathan Metzl would seem right up my alley:
Risk helps people identify the possibility of peril in their loved ones and is something that we all want to avoid in our own lives. Risk implies peril, hazard, and the possibility of loss. Risk, as anthropologist Lochlann Jain puts it, is a form of American autobiography—inasmuch as it reveals a great deal about our relationships with cars, machines, and other objects and technologies. As a doctor or as a researcher, I believe that a life with less risk is a life that is often longer, happier, and more secure. Risk is something that we should want to study, identify, and, ultimately, prevent.