Sociology of Guns Student Field Trip Reflection Essay 2

Following yesterday’s first student reflection essay, here is #2 (of I don’t know how many – it depends on the students).

By Mary Daniel Cheek

Prior to Wednesday’s field trip, my knowledge about guns was limited to a basic understanding of different types of guns and their operation. I grew up in a family that owned several guns and had previous experience shooting rifles and shotguns outdoors. Because of this experience, I was most excited to learn more about the sale of guns and to shoot a handgun.

At the range, I expected to see what I perceive to be the “typical” gun owner, or who the store employee referred to as a “tactical Timmy.” Resultantly, I was surprised to see as many female shooters as I did. This is likely due to ProShots deliberately catering to the female gun owner, from selling pink and light blue guns to designating a night at the range for female shooters. I was most surprised to see multiple minors at the range with their families. As someone whose first shooting experience was on private property in rural North Carolina, I actually did not know that minors could shoot at an actual range with the supervision of an adult.

Because most of the information I consume regarding guns comes from content produced with a slight liberal bias, I valued the opportunity to hear the perspective of professionals with a vast knowledge of guns. In the employees’ discussion of “assault rifles,” I found two insights rather interesting. Firstly, the statement, “You can’t call a rifle an assault rifle unless it is used in an assault” intrigued me. I have never considered the power of this term before, specifically how this term inspires contempt toward the owner of such a gun who never intends to use it offensively in a violent assault. Secondly, I was interested when the employee drew a comparison between Jeeps and military-style guns. In both cases, he argued, a piece of equipment designed for military use has been adapted to enter the civilian market. I have never considered this comparison before and found it interesting that such guns sell so well because of their military aesthetic.

I particularly enjoyed learning about the process of selling a gun to a customer. Prior to this field trip, I was confused about what is actually involved in purchasing a gun in America because the terms “background checks” and “loopholes” are discussed ambiguously in the news media. Ultimately, I was comforted by the care and attention to detail with which ProShots conducts gun sales. Most notably, I appreciate that ProShots exercises caution when dealing with customers they deem unfit to buy a gun or whom they suspect of trying to obtain a gun illegally. As a gun salesman, I think it would be most difficult to guard against straw purchases because customers have numerous opportunities to deceive the gun salesman. While I am pleased that ProShots errs on the side of caution when selling guns, I found it surprising that their primary motive for this caution was to safeguard themselves against discipline from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. This makes perfect sense from a business perspective, but I was surprised that the employees never explicitly cited public safety as a motive for preventing questionable gun sales. Furthermore, I was shocked that ProShots has never considered sharing their list of ineligible customers with other local gun stores.

Ultimately, I learned more than I expected to about how guns are made available to the American public. This field trip has piqued my interest in learning about the many facets of American gun culture. I registered for this class to become more informed about guns and this field trip proved that I have still have much to learn to engage in thoughtful discussions about guns. Additionally, I did not find shooting handguns as difficult as I imagined it to be and would like to visit a range to shoot again.


  1. Dr

    Thank you for sharing these stores with permission of your students. The essays provide interesting insights into the thoughts and education of the rising generation.

    I hope you will ask them to write additional essays exploring the course material. I would be interested in knowing their thoughts on the balance between individual responsibility and collective authority that’s highlighted by issues like gun control, hate speech, censorship, and similar proxies for the liberty vs. collectivism debate. Seems the psychology would be similar.

    Can you post the essay question that students were given? That would help me understand a bit more.

    Thanks for sharing your work so freely. It’s really fascinating.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing. As a former non-gunner who is now the owners of a women’s only shooting group (Gun Powder Gals), I do my best to educate women on firearms. When done in non-confrontational manner and with an understanding of my background and journey, I find that most women are intrigued, wish to learn more, or at the very least, tend not to see guns as ‘evil bringer of death.”

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Ms.Cheek for the win!
    Very astute of her to see the subliminal seduction of words.
    Bravo for not clinging defensively to a bias and having the open spirit to accept she’s possibly been swayed by the NewSpeak of those with an agenda.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on and commented:
    A pleasant field trip. The aromatics of bore solvent and oil. The cerebral engagement of ballistic eye candy in different configurations and calibers. The freedom of shedding Black Rifle Syndrome.
    It is all one tiny step in a journey. It becomes as a banquet in itself, then after the typical land function activities are sated, then the mystery of duck decoys, and burlap to cover a lifted outboard motor, begin to take hold in the mind, as retrievers surrender the fowl and do the shake, and you, the ocean, the fowl, and the dog, are one in an ecosystem and culinary exploit, spanning centuries of time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good essay!

    I don’t have a problem with the lack of distinction between military and civilian rifles. After all, most bolt action hunting rifles are barely different, mechanically, than earlier military weapons such as the German Mauser, American Springfield, or British Enfield. My Model 70 Winchester in 30/06 that I gifted to my brother in law was pretty much, except for its sporting stock and lack of a bayonet mount, what our troops used in the trenches of WW I. the Browning BAR deer rifle bears a striking resemblance to its WW II cousin. My Springfield Armory Range Officer is the same handgun, spiffied up a bit, that John Browning designed for the U.S. Army a century ago, the M1911.

    Likewise, the progression from the M-1 to the M-14 to the M-16 amounted to efforts to maintain fire superiority in battle along with managing the soldier’s ability to control the weapon and carry a sufficient ammunition supply. So the real question is not military vs civilian, but whether civilians should have free and unfettered access to military weapons as these weapons evolved to newer and higher fire capacity designs that stray farther and farther from real dual use (one doesn’t need sustained fire superiority to hunt deer). This question usually results in pro and anti gun sides manning their respective battlements, but its a good question as it goes to individual rights vs public risk. Of course, the colonists tended to keep their munitions in central locations, which is, after all, why the Brits were marching from Lexington to Concord.

    But the bottom line is there is nothing intrinsically evil or wrong with civilians having military stuff. It really boils down to whether we live in a society where such individual rights are respected not only by the government, but held responsibly by the individuals. My Mini-14 or M1911 doesn’t really put anyone at risk, my fellow citizen’s inappropriate remark notwithstanding**.

    ** “I cannot feel safe in this community as long as there are people like you around” was what a lady told me at a Unitarian Church event where gun rights v gun control was being discussed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is an entire history of the sporterization of military rifles into the engraved beauties we all love. Holland & Holland, is only one of numerous arms firms converting the military rifles and you can actually see the transitioning. Step-down barrels tapered, stocks modified, engraving anywhere possible. (I have to pause and roll up my tongue from the floor and mop the drool.)
      My Model-70 (USRA circa 1982 per serial number), in .30-06, is refined, because military rifles I had owned, such as Springfield 1903 had two-stage triggers. In the Model-70, eleven buck were harvested with 150 grains, to 165 grains, to 180 grains. In bear hunting, depends on how big they are in the area. A 180 grain is good on Black Bear, but, if indications point to something big, I will go with 220 grains. In Maine, I spoke with guys who exclusively use .30-06, and pretty much agree with what I use, or others go with .338 Win., to .375 H&H, but notice, configurations, all have roots in military rifles. I had a Mauser k98 8x57mm. All I did was have an aperture receiver sight mounted. That was the only rifle that when I took it out, in 30 minutes, I was filling a tag, and getting down to field dressing a buck. The flood destroyed the rifle, and I sorely miss it. Military rifle, used in a role of harvesting meat for the family. The church lady mentioned, does not understand that, everything, is a matter of, what is upstairs in a person’s head. Right or Wrong; Good or Evil. The decisions we all make on a daily basis. In fact, she should thank Almighty God, that there are Good people with firearms, in her community and in her congregation.

      Liked by 2 people

      • My stepdad’s first deer rifle was a 1903 Springfield that was partially sporterized. New trigger, sport stock, drilled and tapped for a scope, but still had the step-down barrel. I shot a fair number of ground hogs with that as a kid as my dad always wanted to take out his 225 Winchester, which left me either with the 22 rimfire or the 1903 Springfield loaded with either 100 (I think) grain Speer “plinkers” or 110 grain pointed soft point.

        Back when I was a kid and mammoths still roamed south of the ice caps, most of the stores near us had rows and rows of army surplus rifles labelled from “NRA excellent” to “NRA fair” and it was common to buy them and sporterize them. Wish I had snagged one of those 7 mm Mausers, just for grins.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. A “questionable” gun sale _may_ at some point in the future, result in harm to public safety, but an edge case caught by ATF _will_ result in your business going under the microscope and disproportionate penalties for even the most technical and innocuous of paperwork violations. To fear overzealous regulators more than potential social risks is absolutely rational.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mike Weisser wrote up a short book (“Sandy Hook: A Man Sold A Gun” note from my wife, the technical editor and former English professor: Mike needed an editor, but its still a very fascinating and chilling read) on what happened to the gun shop that legally sold the AR to Nancy Lanza, the mom of mass shooter Adam Lanza. From Mike’s book it seemed that the Feds pulled out all the stops to destroy that gun shop and its owner simply to make it look like the Feds were “doing something” about Newtown. So I have to agree with Matthew: fearing overzealous regulators is pretty rational. I think there may be something similar going on with the FFL who sold ammo to the Las Vegas mass shooter, i.e. excoriating him for a technical violation that had nothing to do with the mass shooting which the FFL could not have in any way predicted.

      Liked by 2 people

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