Sociology of Guns Field Trip to Gun Range, 2022 (Light Over Heat #37)

Under beautiful, sunny North Carolina skies, my Fall 2022 Sociology of Guns seminar students completed their mandatory field trip to the gun range on August 31st.

This is the 8th time I have taught the course and the 8th successful field trip we have taken as a class. All the students left the range with the same number of holes in their bodies as they arrived with, plus some experience handling and shooting firearms.

Although guns are always a Rorschach test of sorts and students’ preexisting understandings heavily influence the conclusions they draw about guns at the end of the course, having an experiential basis upon which to discuss firearms and shooting is foundational to our consideration of the role of guns in American society.

In the coming days, I will (as before) post some of the students’ field trip reflection essays on this blog. They have historically been among the most popular items I post, so stay tuned!

Students are required to go on the field trip, but not to shoot. Prior to the COVID pandemic, all 16 students visited the range as a single group. From 2015 to 2019, about two-thirds of students opted to try shooting during the field trip. In 2020, due to COVID, I had the students visit the range in 4 groups of 4 students. I was interested to observe that in these smaller groups, every student opted to try shooting. Because there are always so many new shooters in the class, I think these smaller groups made it more comfortable for them to try.

So, even though COVID restrictions were not as strict in 2021 and 2022, I kept the small group approach. All 13 students in the class tried shooting last year. This year, all 16 students shot all 3 guns offered. Of these, only 1 student had shot regularly, 4 had shot at all, and 11 students had never shot a gun before.

Sociology of Guns student at the range, Fall 2022. Photo by Sandra Stroud Yamane

As in previous years, my goal is not to make these students proficient shooters or to perfect their technique, but simply to give them enough instruction to safely hold and fire three different guns: a Ruger Mark III .22LR semi-automatic pistol, a Glock 17 9mm semi-automatic pistol, and an AR-style 5.56mm/.223 semi-automatic rifle.

Sociology of Guns student at the range, Fall 2022. Photo by Sandra Stroud Yamane

Although the ammo shortage that went along with the Great Gun Buying Spree of 2020+ is starting to abate, prices remain high. Last year Lucky Gunner ammo donated 200 rounds of each of the three calibers the students would have the opportunity to try. This year I did not have an opportunity to solicit donations in advance of the field trip, so I have created a “goal” on my Buy Me a Coffee page if you would like to contribute to my range expense fund. Or you can make a donation through PayPal.

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Although students had a range of responses to shooting the different guns, some of which I will post here as noted above, I am happy to say that none reported having Gersh Kuntzman-like PTSD symptoms from firing the AR-style rifle.

Sociology of Guns student at the range, Fall 2022. Photo by Sandra Stroud Yamane

Another COVID pandemic-induced modification to the course is that I cover information about types of firearms, gun safety, and shooting in pre-recorded videos the students watch prior to arriving at the range (rather than giving this instruction at the range). These YouTube-hosted videos are available below.

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