LAS VEGAS (AP) — One Las Vegas shooting range was selling "take a shot at love" packages that include 50 submachine gun rounds. Another offered wedding packages in which the bride and groom can pose with Uzis and ammunition belts. And a third invited 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 Newtown, 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 was 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, the ranges 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."
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 fatale" 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, shooting ranges extended their tongue-in-cheek promotions to Valentine's Day, always a moneymaker in this matrimony-and-sex-obsessed town.