Following is the second of four end-of-semester student reflection papers for my Sociology of Guns seminar. Background on the assignment and the first reflection are available here.
By Henry Mellon
Many people have very strong opinions on guns. Some people feel very strongly that people should be able to own whatever gun they want, and others feel that guns should be highly regulated, or even banned. People feel so strongly about guns because they can bring many people joy, and other people immense pain. I grew up in rural western Pennsylvania, and guns have been a very large part of my life. My family has been avid sportsmen, and gun fans for as many generations as I can remember. My great grandfather bought several properties around the country for hunting, my grandfather collected guns and hunted, and my father is an enormous hunter, and has quite a collection of guns himself. So, it is no wonder that I am very pro fun. The first time I shot a gun, my father’s friend in Georgia let me shoot his son’s .22 Chipmunk; I was only 4 years old. Since then, my love for guns has only increased. I have bought several guns, and have been given a few more from my father and grandfather. I believe that people should be allowed to own basically any gun they want. However, I do believe that some people should not be allowed to own guns, like felons, people convicted of stalking, and other crimes against other humans. This being said, I do not believe that taking guns away from those who use them legally would solve the gun violence epidemic in this country.
Over the course of this semester, I have learned a great deal about the other aspects of guns, that I would not have encountered living in a small rural town. I now have a much greater knowledge of the problems this country faces with guns. For example, I now know a lot more about how much of a problem guns can be for some people. I learned that certain techniques for gun control could be very effective, and certainly more effective than gun bans.
For my second paper, I researched the reasons people own guns. I learned that people own guns for almost as many reasons as there are different types of guns. I mainly learned that geographic location, and gender play a major role on why certain people own guns. The majority of people in rural areas tend to own guns for sporting purposes, while those who live in urban areas tend to own guns more for self-defense. In addition to this I learned about the role gender plays on gun ownership, and how the gun industry uses it to their advantage. There are a lot more men who own guns than women, and this is no small part because of the masculine appeal of guns. In the past, the men in the family typically hunted, while the women tended to the more domestic duties. While we no longer need to hunt for our food, gun culture has remained very male dominant. Even though some women are very active in gun culture, the majority own guns for self-defense. More and more women are buying guns for self-defense because women are much more likely to live alone now, and want a way to protect themselves from intruders. The gun industry plays a large role in this because they create advertisements that make it seem like a gun is the only form of protection for women. However, the gun industry also continues to advertise guns in very masculine ways. While gun advertisements for women tend to make women look like they are in danger, advertisements targeted towards men show guns as a symbol of masculinity. They reinforce the idea that men who own guns are the alpha-males by showing pictures of fit men with guns, and aggressive slogans. They also reinforce the idea that it is the man’s duty to protect his family from harm.
While I still hold many of my same beliefs and opinions about guns, I learned that people who are very anti-gun do have some very good reasons to have those ideas. It is important to remember that guns are a very dangerous tool, and in the wrong hands they can cause a great deal of harm to not only the individual on the wrong end of the barrel, but to their families and loved ones. As I continue my life’s journey, I need to keep in mind that not everyone shares the same beliefs as me about guns, as well as everything else in life. In order to make more informed decisions about guns, I learned that it is very important to realize guns have their place in some societies, and do not in others. For example, if I were to move to a city in New England, or the west coast, I need to remember that guns may are likely not as accepted as they are in Ligonier.