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.