US gun tourism grows in popularity in recent years

Aug 29 2014, 14:14 IST
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Tourists from Australia, Europe or Asia, where civilians are barred from many types of guns, long to indulge in the quintessentially American right to bear arms. (Reuters) Tourists from Australia, Europe or Asia, where civilians are barred from many types of guns, long to indulge in the quintessentially American right to bear arms. (Reuters)
SummaryThe death of a firearms instructor by a 9-year-old girl who was firing a fully automatic Uzi displayed...

The death of a firearms instructor by a 9-year-old girl who was firing a fully automatic Uzi displayed a tragic side of what has become a hot industry in the U.S.: gun tourism.

With gun laws keeping high-powered weapons out of reach for most people - especially those outside the U.S. - indoor shooting ranges with high-powered weapons have become a popular attraction.

Tourists from Japan flock to ranges in Waikiki, Hawaii, and the dozen or so that have cropped up in Las Vegas offer bullet-riddled bachelor parties and literal shotgun weddings, where newly married couples can fire submachine gun rounds and pose with Uzis and ammo belts.

''People just want to experience things they can't experience elsewhere,'' said Genghis Cohen, owner of Machine Guns Vegas. ''There's not an action movie in the past 30 years without a machine gun.''

The accidental shooting death of the firing-range instructor in Arizona set off a powerful debate over youngsters and guns, with many people wondering what sort of parents would let a child handle a submachine gun.

Instructor Charles Vacca, 39, was standing next to the girl Monday at the Last Stop range in White Hills, Arizona, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) south of Las Vegas, when she squeezed the trigger. The recoil wrenched the Uzi upward, and Vacca was shot in the head.

Prosecutors say they will not file charges in the case. The identities of the girl and her family have not been released.

Many American youth grow up around guns, and taking part in their first hunt with parents is a rite of passage in rural America. But giving a child an automatic Uzi is a different story.

The dusty outdoor range calls itself the Bullets and Burgers Adventure and touts its ''Desert Storm atmosphere.''

Similar attractions have been around since the 1980s in Las Vegas, although the city has experienced a boom of such businesses in the past few years. Excitement over guns tends to spike when there's fear of tighter gun restrictions, according to Dan Sessions, general manager of Discount Firearms and Ammo, which houses the Vegas Machine Gun Experience.

There's also the prohibitive cost of owning an automatic weapon - an M5 might go for $25,000, while a chance to gun down zombie targets with an AR-15 and three other weapons costs less than $200.

''It's an opportunity that people may not come across again in

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