When I sat down to write the brief show notes for the YouTube episode, I ended up spending 9 hours writing a 3,500 systematic response. Which is probably too much to ask of most people. So, here is the TL:DR or Cliff’s Notes version of that post. If you want to see any of these points elaborated or the documentation supporting them, please pop over to the original post.
TL:DR of this TL:DR I have learned very different lessons from firearms classes than Harel Shapira.
The title, of course, is provocative and the essay certainly provoked considerable attention on my social media feeds. My gun-skeptic friends had all of their biases about Gun Culture 2.0 confirmed, while my gun-sympathetic friends didn’t recognize themselves in Shapira’s characterization.
As usual, I tried to translate between these two different perspectives, but 140 characters doesn’t allow for much nuance.
So, in addition to 11 minutes of more free-flowing “Light Over Heat” video comments, this blog post presents the points I would like to make more systematically.
TL:DR I have learned very different lessons from firearms classes than Harel Shapira.
As I prepare to teach my Sociology of Guns course for the 9th consecutive academic year (dating back to 2015), I am revisiting my syllabus as I do annually. The biggest variables in the course are the assigned readings and the core writing assignment. Here I provide details of the different writing projects I have assigned in previous semesters.
This fall I am going to borrow an “Op-Ed Assignment” my Wake Forest sociology colleague Hana Brown uses in her political sociology class. The assignment will be to write a research-based opinion essay akin to those published in newspaper editorial pages.
I think this assignment will meet my course objective of having students reflect on their personal views of guns in dialogue with scholarly research on guns. This objective underlies each of the earlier writing assignments you will find below.
I’ve had some personal and professional setbacks so far in 2023, but I’ve also had some amazing opportunities to bring light to culture war over guns in America. I’m grateful for that. In this post, I want to share some of what I have planned for the rest of 2023 for anyone interested.
Sociology of Guns syllabus: First up is putting together the syllabus for Sociology of Guns V9.0 that I will be teaching at Wake Forest University this fall. I’m doing this a bit earlier than normal because I’ve been asked by The Conversation to contribute a piece about my course to their “Uncommon Courses” series. I’m really excited to share what I’ve learned about having productive conversations about guns through teaching this course.
University of Wyoming College of Law Firearms Research Center workshop: Next I will be headed to Fort Worth, Texas for a workshop sponsored by the new Firearms Research Center at the University of Wyoming College of Law (in conjunction with the Duke University Center for Firearms Law). I will be presenting the chapter of my book-in-progress on Gun Culture 2.0 that addresses the evolution and contours of concealed carry laws in the US.
I’m excited to learn more about firearms law from actual legal scholars and historians, especially in the dynamic new post-Bruen world we’re living in.
In Fall 2022, I am teaching my “Sociology of Guns” seminar at Wake Forest University for the eighth consecutive academic year, dating back to the fall of 2015. A PDF of the course syllabus for Version 8.0 is available HERE.
Over the years, I have posted a number of times on this blog and my older Gun Culture 2.0 blog about this seminar. This entry collects those earlier posts — from both blogs — including many written by students in the class.
When I arrived at the gun range, I was oddly nervous for the next 45 minutes. Until this field trip, I had never touched a gun, let alone shot one. I watched all the training videos and took careful notes, but much like many aspects of life, you need to actually do it. I can watch as many videos as I want about gun safety, but actually shooting a gun is a very different experience.
Growing up with immigrant parents in a city full of people like me (Miami) meant I did not have many chances to see day-to-day manifestations of American culture like guns. My first idea of gun culture came around 2012 after the Sandy Hook shooting. Because I had never had an experience with a firearm before, my immediate response to guns was negative. The intensity of my disdain for guns constantly fluctuated, but my general attitude was discomfort with the idea of owning, using, or enjoying a firearm. To me, they represented the ugly parts of humanity, like violence and destruction.
It was not until about a year ago that my opinion toward guns started shifting. As I have had to live alone and be in situations where I felt helpless, I have come to terms with how helpful a gun can be in protecting oneself. I also have friends who own guns, which has made me reconsider my negative attitudes toward gun owners. Therefore, my understanding of firearms was more accepting by the time the gun range field trip came around. However, I did not plan to touch or shoot a gun during the trip, an out-of-character decision for my adrenaline-junkie personality. I had never held a gun in my life, and I never saw myself as a person who could shoot one. Maybe I was still carrying some negative assumptions, or perhaps I was terrified of something going wrong once the gun was in my hands.
This is the sixth of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2022 Sociology of Guns seminar (see reflection #1 and reflection #2 and reflection #3 and 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 Liana Hutton
Approximately half a year ago, when I signed the form to participate in this course, it discussed how we were required to go on a field trip to the gun range. My first thoughts were how interesting this would be because of my background. I grew up in Hilton Head, South Carolina – a place that loves guns – but in a family that grew up in New York and does not like guns. Growing up in a very socially liberal household in a socially conservative area gave me an interesting perspective. Not only did I develop my own beliefs about guns in general, but I also developed a sense of what others believed, and why. In high school, I was part of the Young Democrats club, which came together when mass shootings happened to hold an entire school activity to remember those lost in the Parkland shooting specifically. I remember that day, the members of the Young Republicans club passed around stickers to students that said, “I support the second amendment.”
To sum it up, I lived in a place that loved the second amendment, where lots of teenagers went hunting with their parents growing up, and lived in households that had multiple kinds of guns. I grew up in a family that believed, and still does, that we need gun control, and that some types of guns should be banned.
This is the fifth of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2022 Sociology of Guns seminar (see reflection #1 and reflection #2 and 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 Jayden Brown
After attending the range, I think that my previous beliefs about guns in the US were amplified. When I was holding the guns, it felt like I was handling too much power; it made me very nervous. It made me think about how some people can pull the trigger so easily, especially when it is aimed at another person. I think that television shows have also desensitized us from the truth surrounding guns. On TV, especially on cop shows, the police officers and perpetrators fire guns at each other like it is nothing. They make it look a lot easier than it actually is.
This is the fourth of several student gun range field trip reflection essays from my fall 2022 Sociology of Guns seminar (see reflection #1 and 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 Elisabeth Kuguru
My experience shooting a gun for the first time today mostly fits with my prior understanding of guns in the US. In recent years, I have become a lot more open to shooting at gun ranges, but I could never picture myself picking up a gun and shooting. Growing up in Nairobi, Kenya, guns were always meant to be feared. They are completely illegal in Kenya, however guards and police are permitted to carry them. When living there, I knew that if a gun was involved it could only mean danger. Although I did not have to be fearful of school shootings in Nairobi, I was wary of terrorist attacks. These were my first impressions of guns, so I was shocked to come to North Carolina to see people open carrying in Costco and at parties.