The 9th and final student reflection on the normative question of the role guns should play in (American) society, from my Sociology of Guns seminar, follows. The first eight reflections can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
By Blake Robinson
I spent my early childhood growing up in a safe suburb in the South. While I was vaguely aware that some of my friends’ dads had guns, that idea was in the periphery. My first and only real exposures to firearms were early in life through classic James Bond movies my dad and I would watch together on the weekends, videogames I played with friends, and the pellet rifle my dad had purchased to deal with our squirrel infestation. So throughout my early years, I always had this concept that guns were cool, but had little to no understanding of why people had them, nor anything resembling an opinion on them beyond “oh, neat”. I’ve read in numerous places that the primary reason people own guns is for protection and that is my view now as well, and it was a view that began to take shape not too long after we moved from the suburbs to the rural community in McDonald, Tennessee.
In the country my exposure to guns increased and we’d frequently hear shotgun and rifle shots in the distance. I’d see hunters and neighbors walking by the road with long guns over their shoulder, and I’d see people who didn’t look like police with handguns at the supermarket. My reaction was always to think that it was kind of cool. The fact that it made my mom uncomfortable made it oddly more appealing, in a childish sort of way. We never had guns in the house growing up, I remember asking my mom once why we didn’t have one and if we could. Her only real response was to get very quiet, and then suddenly change the topic. I knew she and my dad had talked about it due to the prevalence of venomous snakes in our area, but nothing had come of those conversations.
My parents’ opinion changed the day we noticed a strange dog on our property, some kind of wild pit-bull-mix, near the two old barns in our field. My dad, my brother, and I were out playing hide-and-go-seek, when my brother runs towards the barns to hide. Unbeknownst to us, the dog was there because she’d just birthed a litter of puppies in one of the barns. The wild dog, thinking my little brother was a threat, knocked him to the ground and started biting his arms. He was saved from anything more than superficial harm by our family dog, but my dad was unable to drive the dog off with his pellet gun. The next day, my dad and my grandfather went to the local sporting goods store and bought a pump action shotgun.
The shotgun stayed locked up in his closet unused for more than five years before we ever fired it, and even then it was only used for sport. Even still, the action of buying it in response to a perceived threat, in conjunction with the community culture and pop culture imagery I absorbed growing up, formed the image in my head that guns were a protective force. Having it around did make me feel safer. My interest in guns has grown since then, as has my competence with them. I now embrace shooting as a pastime, but at my core I still see gun ownership as an invaluable form of protection. For this reason, I will likely always side with gun-rights over gun-control. That having been said, safe gun ownership has always been the model I’ve been exposed to: trigger locks, gun safes, and unloaded storage were all things of which my friends’ parents espoused the value. My view at the end of the day is that outside of common-sense controls to make sure violent criminals and minors can’t get them, I think guns are a viable form of protection to which every American, regardless of region, should have relatively easy access.