The Disturbingly Hot Tourist Activity in Hawaii, Vegas: Shooting Guns

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From bungee jumping to surfing lessons to hours at the craps table, tourists have been known to spend good money on a wide range of thrilling, only-on-vacation activities. Target practice with an assault weapon can now be added to the list.

In the aftermath of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., there have been plenty of arguments made that guns are necessary for protection, or that perhaps we need much stricter gun control. In some popular tourist destinations, another argument is being promoted: Guns are supposedly good clean fun.

Within a couple months of the Newtown massacre, the Associated Press highlighted a number of over-the-top Las Vegas shooting range promotions aimed at tourists, including real-life “shotgun wedding” ceremonies and “romantic” packages allowing couples to renew their vows and shoot guns, all for one price. Sin City has been living up to its nickname and was “embracing tourists’ newfound interest in big guns the only way it knows how: by going all in,” the story noted.

“Customers just want to have fun,” one employee at a Vegas shooting range explained. “It’s like a bucket list item.”

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Naturally, gun-control advocates have a different take:

“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.

USA Today recently reported that the guns-n-tourists trend isn’t limited to Vegas. “Ground zero for gun tourism,” in fact, is reportedly not the Las Vegas Strip but beautiful Waikiki, Hawaii. Normally thought of as a paradise for beaches, surf, and relaxation, Waikiki is also a magnet for foreigners—Japanese, in particular—who want to try their hands at something they’d never be able to do at home:

Tourists from countries with the strictest gun laws, such as Japan, are the most attracted to Hawaii’s gun clubs. Jeff Tarumi, an NRA certified instructor at the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club, estimates that over 90% of his customers are Japanese tourists.

The club mentioned above offers shooting packages ranging from $60 to $300, including one designed for children under the age of 15. Before being allowed to fire a weapon, tourists must show ID, pay up, and watch a 15-minute gun safety video. They can select from among dozens of guns to shoot, including assault rifles and high-powered .44 Magnums.

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Curiously, even as some tourists are eager to take advantage of the availability of guns in the U.S., they are also fearful of Americans’ wide-open access to guns. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable traveling to the mainland U.S. because of the gun laws,” one Japanese tourist is quoted saying. “Hawaii is OK.”