End of Class Student Reflection on the Complicated Nature of a Highly Charged American Issue

As I noted in my previous post, my Sociology of Guns seminar concluded with students writing final reflection papers. The actual text of the assignment was:

  • In this final paper, you will revisit your personal view of the role guns should play in society (Paper 1) in light of your consideration of the role guns actually do play in American society (Paper 2). Reflecting on what you learned in researching and writing Paper 2, discuss how your mind has (and/or has not) changed. Where do you stand now and why?
  • Although the instructor has read Papers 1 and 2, do not assume he can remember your specific arguments in reading Paper 3. As you address where you started and what you learned, make specific reference to the ideas in your previous papers. (Remember: This is Chapter 3 of your 3 chapter mini-book.)
  • Finally, conclude this paper by considering what more you need to know in order to make informed choices about your own participation with and the place of guns in the communities in which you live and will live in the future.

This is the first of several reflection papers I will be posting. The author’s initial reflection was “From Cool to Protective, A Changing View of Guns in Society.”


By Blake Robinson

This year has provided no shortage of fuel to the national gun debate. Several well publicized mass shootings since July have fueled calls for gun control. When I began this class I wrote about how the views on guns in society were shaped by experience, now having taken the class, I understand the true complexity of the issue. Though my personal views haven’t shifted measurably, I now have the knowledge to understand the implications of my view, that gun ownership is a right and should therefore be subject to at most light restriction, could have on society. This increase in understanding the intricacies surrounding the issue of guns in society has actually altered my behavior with regard to how I discuss the issue as well as how I conduct myself where the use of guns is involved.

In any debate, and in emotionally charged debates in particular, knowledge is important. After every tragic mass shooting this year my friends on social media took to their keyboards, often within minutes of the news breaking, to express their views on guns. This visceral reaction is hardly new, but my reaction to the mud-slinging on both sides has changed. I used to look at the posts from both sides of the political isle with a certain level of detachment, disinterest based not upon a lack of esteem for the tragic subject at hand but on a lack of desire to engage in such an emotionally charged debate. Now, when I hear that there has been an attack, I stay off social media for at least twelve hours to allow the actual facts to emerge before I even consider entering a discussion about the issue of guns. Once enough time has passed for me to feel comfortable discussing guns I’m now much more cautious about how I approach the issue once the discussion has started. I have fairly strong beliefs on the issue of guns, but they are ones I’m willing to be flexible for the sake of compromise. I believed coming into the class, as I still do, that gun ownership and carrying is a right and should be treated as such, a subject I would often bring up in discussions on the issue. However, I have long harbored a strong distain for those who I would see using phrases such as “amoral” and “degenerate” to describe legal gun owners with whom the speakers had a disagreement. The recent New York Times editorial on guns in America is an excellent reference source for ways not to have a true discussion about guns. Calling the people you’re debating against monsters is hardly conducive to discourse, it’s a conversation stopper. One thing I really took away from the class discussions were how civil they were, even though people clearly had strong opposing views during them. What those class discussion also taught me was that I can sometimes discuss the issue similarly to how the New York Times did. Saying “well this is my right”, true or not, is very much a conversation stopper as well. While the issue of rights versus security does have a place in the societal discourse about guns, it shouldn’t be the first discussion point in the conversation. Additionally, if the debate is an ongoing one, I try to include an invitation to go shooting during it. It was interesting on the class trip to the range to see some of my fellow students’ perspective change once they had experienced shooting first hand.

The other key idea class imparted to me was to always make sure I was having the same debate as the person with whom I was conversing. The class showed me how little I knew about an issue in which I considered myself to well versed and made me more sensitive to the fact that people I’m debating might not always have the level of background knowledge I have. For instance the other day I had a conversation with someone who I knew to be familiar and comfortable with guns, and he was very uncomfortable with the rifle I’d brought and I couldn’t understand why he kept making comments about it. The rifle in question was an AR type rifle, my first assumption was that he’d bought the bad press rifles like it get. However, I decided to make sure there hadn’t been some miscommunication and asked him about it. As it turned out, all he knew about that rifle was from brief segments of CNN, and from what he’d seen he thought it was not only illegal but also a machine gun, AR’s are neither. Once he realized that he had his information wrong the tension evaporated and he had a fun time using it. Had I not sought to clarify where the issue was, he might have left there with a very negative impression of me and shooting.

The other area I think the class shifted my perspective was in how I treat my guns, not that I was doing anything unsafe, but I now have the understanding that, rightly or wrongly, I am a representative of gun users whenever I use mine. I came into the class with, personal convictions aside, the idea that guns were cool as well as practical. I still hold those opinions, but I am much more careful now with how others see me use my firearms. If someone sees me on social media acting like an idiot with a loaded gun that can potentially color their view of gun owners as immature dangers to society. However, if I present myself as safety conscious and responsible, that could in turn improve someone’s views of other gun users by proxy.

Truly the most important issue when I comes to an emotionally charged debate, like the one over guns, is to be conscientious of how others will interpret what you say and do. This class has taught me that there is a way to have an intelligent, balanced, and most of all polite discussion even about an issue as politically contentious as guns.



  1. Please include, that students should be mindful that it is a Right and not a privilege. A person may, avail themselves to exercising their Right in a Reasonable and Prudent manner, or, they may opt to decline to exercise their Right, without penalty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point regarding rights. I think the challenge is — perhaps as always — in understanding the boundaries of the right. We have the Heller and McDonald decisions, which are significant, but we also have challenges to Sunnyvale (CA) ban on 11+ round magazines and Morton Grove (IL) ban on “assault weapons,” both of which the Supreme Court has declined to hear.

      Liked by 1 person

      • In general, when misuse of firearms occur, Maturity and Responsibility, are absent. When used in crime, unchecked animal behavior is at hand.
        When I was in school, many decades ago, Good Citizenship, was taught. We had a high school rifle team. The school was a vocational trades school, and everyone, was required to carry a pocket knife. Never had any knife incidents. We were taught either in your hand working or folded and secured in your pocket when not in use. We learned boxing. We said, “Yes, Sir” and “Yes, Ma’am”. Quite a contrast as educators had to comply with a looser liberal agenda of education. Things, changed. Later on, in the Marine Corps, I found that there are always two people in every platoon, the Clown, and the Troublemaker. You avoid both. There was only one incident of horseplay with rifles and the sergeant caught them. I will never forget that and neither would the two involved ever forget the wrath of the sergeant. (It was like the first half of the movie Full Metal Jacket, only on steroids.) In use of weapons, I was a machine gunner and had to qualify and be proficient with every weapon carried by the company, the training was tougher than combat. We learned that we train the way we fight, and we fight the way we trained. While going through the hamlets, it was a lifesaver.
        All of the gun bans never considers the mental conditioning. A person can carry hundreds of round, I did, but we were taught, “Only The Hits Count”, and when in combat we also learned that where the enemy was or suspected, “adequate fire”, was directed to those positions. We did the maximum, with only a minimum, sufficient to get the job done. Hollywood teaches to shoot as many rounds as possible. Not so in combat. Hollywood also teaches the sideway hold of pistols because LAPD had officers shot and the shooters said they learned to shoot by watching movies. The sideways hold will throw shots 7 o’clock low, as a matter of officer survival. Pity that the legilators do not take into consideration, what it takes to be proficient with a firearm when responsibly carried and utilized. Here in New York, everything is a mess, because of liberal elected officials who run around like screamers in the middle o the night, making gun laws in 30 minutes, behind closed doors. Fools!


  2. In any discussion about my firearms if I’m showing them to someone I tell them the only rule that matters: there is no such thing as an unloaded gun. Then I clear the firearm and watch them as they handle it. If they start to do something like sweeping someone or something they should not I step in. I have taught firearms safety and I have ran a range.

    Looking forwards to reading more of these. Perhaps a link could be embedded to the original document?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment. By “original document,” do you mean the student’s original reflection? That should appear just before the image in the post. If you mean something else, let me know and I will see what I can do.


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