Guns for Valentine's Day: The Latest Idea From Las Vegas

Shooting RangeBy Hannah Dreier

LAS VEGAS -- 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' 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.

"These gun stores and shooting ranges offer bad puns in poor taste in their efforts to put a happy face on firearms, yet each day more than 86 Americans die from gun violence," said Newtown native Josh Sugarmann, who is executive director of the Washington D.C-based Violence Policy Center.

"While Las Vegas gun promoters present assault rifles with high-capacity ammunition magazines as harmless Valentine's Day props, the vast majority of Americans understand their true role: military-bred weapons that threaten police and public safety," he said.

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).

"We give what people are asking for, whether it's the 'mob experience' and they want to test a Tommy gun, or a bachelor package, and they want a limo to take them to the club afterward," said Lianne Heck, marketing director at Range 702, which opened in October.

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.

"For people who are gun people, you can't find a better option," said MacDuff, of Alberta, Canada.

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.

"What hope for the US when couples can now get married with weapons?" read the headline of a Jan. 7 article in the Sun reporting that that no couples had canceled their shotgun weddings after the national tragedy.

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.

"People always want to put a spin on it like it's a hostile or angry thing," she said. "Really, customers just want to have fun. It's like a bucket list item."

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.

"If anything, this will maybe enforce the image of guns as something that are bad for you," he said.


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12 Comments

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raventug123

Josh Sugarrman is an *******

February 15 2013 at 6:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lfb101867

350,000,000 guns in the U.S., let's confiscate them all! 12,000,000 illegal aliens in the U.S., impossible to track them! Not even worth trying! That's the wacko left for ya.

February 15 2013 at 3:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Vinnie

WE NRA PPL ARE NOT BAD PPL WE RESPECT FIREARMS AND LAWS MANY PPL WITHOUT NRA MEMBERSHIPS ALSO POLICEMEN ARE BAD TOO REMEMBER 11 RETIRED NYPD BOUGHT ILLEGAL GUNS FROM SOUTHERN STATES AND SOLD TO CRIMINALS AT HIGHER PRICES THEY AREN'T NRA MEMBERS MAYOR BLOOMBERG AND POLICE COMM. KELLY SAY NOTHING ABOUT IT STOP BLAMING NRA MEMBERS AND LAW-ABIDING PPL

February 14 2013 at 11:17 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
SunshineDee22

correction: People with GUNS kill People...that lie by your killing machine lover's hold no more weight. Maybe if your child took 11 rounds through it's tiny body you killing machine lover's would feel differently...have any idea what it must be like to see your 6 year old child blown to bits? Sick pathetic souls, all of you. If you need more than 7 rounds to defend yourself, it's time to put your gun down. Your aim sucks.

February 14 2013 at 9:20 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
Martin

Abortions (the real child abuse) and medical mistakes kill way more children than gun violence ever has. The Ultra Left Wing Liberals blame everything on guns..of coure these people live in a land of unicorns and rainbows..not the real world...all I can say if you dont like guns, dont buy one....

February 14 2013 at 9:14 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Mike

Who wrote this crap ? Most Americans know that more children were killed by cars today than guns. Cars that were made to go faster than the law allows and people driving them who are breaking the law. This hatchet job on guns is just one more piece of left wing garbage. Please, no more responses from you little panty waist liberals.

February 14 2013 at 8:26 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Jeff

I guess I must be a sicko. I love Las Vegas!

February 14 2013 at 6:49 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
triggers1chick

I live in Vegas, and my whole family and I love to shoot guns and go to gun shows. Can someone please tell me when the last time was, that a gun killed someone? Last I knew, they were innanimate objects that needed a person in order to be used. Guns don't kill people. People kill people.

February 14 2013 at 5:22 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
Richard

Makes sense in rural communities ... makes no sense at all in any city.

February 14 2013 at 3:35 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
dougm90248

Oh sure, guns are a good idea for Valentine's Day. Look what happened on North Clark Street in Chicago on Valentine's Day in 1929.

February 14 2013 at 3:27 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dougm90248's comment
vtmilitia

I heard that was gang related so it doesn't count in Chicago.

February 14 2013 at 4:25 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply