Student Final Reflection Papers for Sociology of Guns Seminar

One of the three major learning objectives for my Sociology of Guns seminar last semester was that the students would:

Better understand your personal beliefs about guns, including scrutinizing your own relationship to guns so as to make informed choices about your own participation with and the place of guns in the communities in which you live.

Students waiting for a turn on the firing line at Veterans Range, Mocksville, NC
Students waiting for a turn on the firing line at Veterans Range, Mocksville, NC

To this end I created a three part writing assignment that asked students to address the question: What Role Should and Do Guns Play in (American) Society?

The first part of this assignment asked students to reflect on their own personal views of the role that guns SHOULD play in (American) society (in 500-1,000 words). I previously posted several of these initial reflections.

The second part of the assignment had students move beyond the personal views they articulated in the first paper to a more scholarly approach to the issue of the role of guns in society. Here the question was not what role should guns play, but what role do guns play according to the empirical (social scientific) research?

Students were able to choose to study any aspect of guns in society, and I received papers on a diverse range of topics reflecting the students’ varying interests in guns:

  • Effectiveness of gun laws on preventing negative outcomes (3 papers)
  • Concealed carry and crime (2 papers)
  • Gender and gun culture (2 papers)
  • Suicide
  • Mental health and violence
  • Mass public shootings
  • Young black men and violence
  • Non-fatal effects of gun violence
  • Risks and benefits of household gun ownership
  • Criminal acquisition of guns
  • Police militarization

Because these papers were much longer — 1,500 to 2,500 words — I chose not to post them here, with the exception of the paper on police militarization which the author specifically asked me to post.

In the final writing assignment for the semester, students revisited their personal views of the role guns should play in society (Paper 1) in light of their considerations of the role guns actually do play in American society (Paper 2). Paper 3, therefore, had the students address the question, Where do you stand now and why?

Over the next several days, I will be posting some of these student reflections, with links to the students’ initial reflections. I hope readers find these students’ thoughts – reflective of their earnest efforts to understand better the issue of guns in society – as interesting as I did.


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