A reader noted that I did not include the essay prompt, which would be helpful in understanding why the students wrote what they did. Here it is:
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?
To answer this question you might benefit from thinking about the following related questions: What did you find surprising? What did you learn? What did you find appealing (or disturbing)? Although you can (and should) reference particular events, processes, or experiences, this essay should not be a mere “play-by-play” of what you did during the field trip. [Assignment from Brett Burkhardt, Oregon State University]
By Riley Satterwhite
I grew up in a town called Mechanicsville, Virginia, so going to the shooting range with my father was a fairly normal activity starting around the age of ten. My dad wanted to introduce me to firearms at a young age, so that I slowly became comfortable being around them, to eliminate the mystery and fear children might associate with guns. I started with little 22 caliber rifles and pistols, and slowly moved up to 9mm pistols, shotguns, and even fully automatic machine guns.
As I became more comfortable around these guns I was introduced to the sporting component of shooting. I would occasionally go skeet shooting with my dad, but my main involvement is in competitive pistol matches. There are two main sports within this category; United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) and International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA), and I compete in both types of competitions. Although they are both fairly similar and involve pistol shooting, they have different intentions and concentrations. USPSA is more of a sport where you want to try and be as fast as you can while still being decently accurate. On the other hand, IDPA focuses more on the practical defense purposes of a pistol, so some of these matches might involve hiding behind barricades, shooting down hallways, or shooting in the dark. I also competed in a few three gun matches, but carrying the rifles and shotguns was a little too exhausting for me. Overall, all of these sports have allowed me to become very comfortable with being around firearms and shooting them.
The field trip to the range was very exciting because due to age restrictions (I am only 19), it is harder for me to practice shooting and go to the range while I am at school. Stepping into the range and hearing the loud booms and smelling the gun powder gave me a sense of security, making me feel like I was back at home. It took me a few shots to get acquainted with the guns because my competition guns at home have very different trigger pulls and features, but once I started shooting I did not want to stop. First, I shot the Smith and Wesson M&P 9mm, and after I moved to the 22. The Smith and Wesson M&P was actually one of the first 9mm my father introduced me to. Although I shoot often, it was very exciting to see the other members of the class who had not shot before smiling after shooting for the first time.
On the range, there was a father/grandfather with his two sons that were probably elementary school aged children. A lot of people seemed shocked to see children that young shooting, but it brought me more excitement and happiness than shock. Part of this is because I started going to the range that young, and I also know the type of bond going to the gun range can bring between a child and their father. One thing extremely important to me is gun safety, and it was nice seeing the father reinforce safety rules and being very strict with the kids, which is crucial with bringing children to the gun range so young. A lot of people and societies as a whole might condemn this behavior, but I think it is important to introduce guns early to children as long as it starts out with over emphasizing gun safety.
I found the informational discussion at the beginning of the trip to be very informative. As much as I shoot, I am not that well educated on the different type of guns and their original functions. It was also interesting discussing the reciprocity of concealed carrying licenses and the variation of laws from state to state. My dad and I travel from state to state for competitions, so he pays close attention to the different laws, especially when we drive through or around D.C. I never travel alone with guns in the car, so I haven’t paid as much attention as I should, but I am glad I got to learn a little more about it before entering the range. Overall, this field trip was not anything new for me, but I really enjoyed watching other people’s reactions, and it allowed me to see shooting from a slightly different perspective.