Welcome to Las Vegas, where the nation’s loosest gun laws, an aggressive tourism market and weak local economy have triggered a fast moving, powerful trend. Six machine gun shooting ranges have opened here in 2012…They follow several more open since 2010, and more are on the way.
Quintessentially American, risky and bold, this surge has provided a rare glimmer of economic sunshine to Nevada, which has the highest unemployment rate in the US and is still reeling from the 2008 housing crisis. Many of the entrepreneurs behind this trend previously owned businesses in the construction industry in fact; they were big-time gun enthusiasts beforehand too, of course, but the main reason they opened shooting ranges recently, they say, is that the development boom is dead.
And then there’s the strong demand. Lynda Ducas, owner of the Arizona Last Stop restaurant en route to the Grand Canyon, said she had customers regularly asking where they could shoot guns in Las Vegas. So, a few months ago, she made some calls, bought an arsenal of weapons and launched the “Bullets and Burgers Experience”: a day trip to her property that includes a scenic drive through the desert, shooting a .50-caliber sniper rifle, blasting an M249 SAW machine gun, and eating a “world-famous cheeseburger”.
Yet while each range has a unique theme and ambition, they’re all after the same tourists and target them the same way essentially. Nevertheless, there’s room for all of them to thrive, they insist. Demand to shoot assault rifles has never been higher apparently, and this is the perfect place to exploit it because, well, it’s Vegas.
“You’re just looking for thrills when you’re here,” Craig Auringer said after shooting “Osombie” Bin Laden with an M4. A real estate agent vacationing from London with his brother, he added that: “We did the Mario Andretti Indy racing experience yesterday, so we decided to come get our kicks here today.”
I have no idea if the United States really leads the world in lame, damaged self-images and egos. If our massive lead in the consumption of mood-altering drugs is a leading indicator, we’re probably Number One. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
I suppose I understand folks who get off on the violence of guns. I enjoyed hunting in the most primitive sense of a quest for food in the wild – solely. Which is why I never hunted predators. Target ranges were fun and improved my skill. To me, this sort of thrill-seeking is not only unproductive, adds nothing to being a human being – it’s negative, a demented waste of money.