My Sociology of Guns seminar got off to a slow start this semester with the cancellation of classes last week due to snow. This canceled our our field trip to the gun range — an annual highlight of the class (see 2017, 2016, and 2015 editions) — but thankfully our hosts were able to reschedule the visit to this week.
We once again visited ProShots Range, a short 20 minute drive from the Wake Forest campus. I really like ProShots as a gun store and range because it is clean, safe, and professional, and from the perspective of Gun Culture 2.0, very welcoming to new shooters, families, women, and racial minorities. I took my first ever formal gun class there, back in 2012, a free 3 hour class that included supervised live fire on the range.
ProShots Range Manager Richard Talbert once again led a discussion of different guns to give students, many of whom have no experience with firearms, a basic understanding of types and actions.
He then covered the legal process of buying a gun in North Carolina, reviewing ATF Form 4473 with the students and the state’s pistol permit system. He also discussed ProShots specific business practices, such as not selling guns to individuals whose NICS checks comes back “delayed” as opposed to “proceed,” and not dealing in black powder guns that are sometimes used by people otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms.
Talbert concluded his presentation with some brief comments about firing a handgun and a range safety briefing covering general rules of gun safety and specific range rules for ProShots. And then we headed to the range.
As a newly minted NRA Certified Range Safety Officer, I ran one line with a Smith & Wesson .22 target pistol and encouraged those who had never shot before to try the .22 first then decide if they wanted to shoot the 9mm. I had about 6 students (plus or minus) who had never shot before try the .22.
Richard ran the other line with a Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm. Because I was busy with my shooters, I won’t know how many students shot the 9mm until we meet as a class next week.
My course requires students to attend the field trip, including the presentation and observation of the range, but does not require them to shoot if they do not want to. I am looking forward to finding out how many of the 17 total students shot.
The purpose of the field trip is to educate not convert. It provides an informational and experiential basis for our discussions throughout the semester. Next week students will submit short (500 to 1,000 word) essays reflecting on the field trip in connection with their existing understanding of guns:
In this essay, you will describe your experience participating in the introduction to firearms class and range visit. The essay is a subjective recollection of your experience at the range, so the content is largely up to you, but it must answer the following question: How did the experience fit with your prior understanding of guns in the US?
Each iteration of a course is different, depending on what the students bring to the class. As before, I already know I have students with a range of backgrounds, from never have seen/touched a gun to a competition shooter. I also have only 2 men in the class, the fewest ever.
As before, I am excited to get started with this educational venture, and hope to have time to report on its progress over the course of the semester.