(AP) As others pull back, Vegas amps up gun promotions
By HANNAH DREIER
One Las Vegas shooting range is selling “take a shot at love” packages that include 50 submachine gun rounds. Another is offering wedding packages in which the bride and groom can pose with Uzis and ammunition belts. And a third invites lovebirds to renew their vows and shoot a paper cutout zombie in the face.
Never known for its understatement or good taste, Sin City is bucking the national trend of avoiding flippant gun promotions after the Newton, Conn., elementary school shooting. Instead, it is embracing tourists’ newfound interest in big guns the only way it knows how: by going all in.
The newest crop of outlandish Valentine’s Day offers is no exception.
Capitalizing on the state’s relaxed gun laws, shooting ranges offer an armory of military-grade weapons that aren’t accessible in other states. And because this is Las Vegas, they also allow customers to destroy photographs of exes, make souvenir T-shirts full of holes and shoot fully-automatic weapons in barely-there bachelor party man-kinis.
Some gun control advocates say the promotions trivialize the dangers of high-powered weapons.
At least half a dozen ranges opened in Las Vegas last year, triggering a marketing arms race.
Before visitors even pick up their bags at McCarran International Airport, they are confronted by ads for the Gun Store, Las Vegas’ most venerable shooting range. One ad features a blonde posing with an MP5 submachine gun under the words, “Try one.”
Machine Gun Las Vegas, which opened last winter, hires former go-go dancers as hostesses and sells its “femme fetale” package with the slogan, “There’s nothing like the scent of Cordite in a woman’s hair.” (Cordite is an alternative to gunpowder).
This year, gun ranges are extending their tongue-in-cheek promotions to Valentine’s Day, always a moneymaker in this matrimony-and-sex-obsessed town.
The Guns and Ammo Garage is offering free vow renewals by the “Pistol Packing Preacher” for one day only. The Gun Store has built a permanent “shotgun weddings” chapel, because nothing makes a memory quite like the sound of gunfire.
Bob MacDuff said his “I do’s” there last July before posing with AK-47s for wedding pictures and going shooting with his 25 guests. He encourages others to celebrate their love with weapons in hand.
In the wake of the Dec. 14 shootings, many companies curtailed their activities to avoid giving offense.
Groupon, the online coupon giant, halted gun-related promotions, video game company Electronic Arts scrubbed its website of links to weapons retailers and the 3-D printing company MakerBot began removing blueprints for guns from its database.
Fox pulled episodes of “Family Guy” and “American Dad” that made jokes about the punishment of children.
British tabloids chided Las Vegas gun ranges for failing to follow suit.
The finger wagging rankled Emily Miller, wedding officiant and head of marketing for the Gun Store, who said the high-powered weapons allow tourists to live out a wild-west fantasy.
At least one gun control advocate agrees with her.
In what might be called a Valentine to the shooting range industry, a spokesman for the Washington D.C.-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said Vegas’ public embrace of shooting might cause people to associate it with other Sin City favorites like gambling, benders and ill-conceived hook-ups.