I-Team: Las Vegas Experiencing Booming Gun Industry

Ed. Note: The national debate about gun violence and gun control has generated strong emotions on all sides following the recent tragedies in Connecticut and Colorado. Should Americans' Second Amendment rights be restricted in the interests of public safety, or is gun violence something that no law could curb? This is part 4 of Guns of Nevada.

LAS VEGAS -- Seven-year-old Yosef Feiler shoots a gun at the Battlefield Vegas range. It's his first time taking part in a uniquely American rite of passage.

"The gun was heavy and it pushed back," Feiler said.

Battlefield Vegas is a gun range that looks more like a military base. Employees wear camo gear and the armory rivals the arsenal of some developing nations. For the Jewish National Fund, this was a unique charity event.

"Bagels, lox and Glocks," said AnnMarie Feiler, Yosef's mother.

Protestors picket underneath Battlefield Vegas' entrance of inert grenades. This is the future of Las Vegas gun ranges - themed fantasies that bewilder Las Vegas' oldest gun stores.

"The military thing with the fake grenades and the guys walking around with camo, whatever, it's dress-up time. They're playing Halloween," said Bob Irwin, owner of The Gun Store. "I just look at them and I'm embarrassed."  

Golf and guns are two words usually not mentioned together, but in Las Vegas you can pop off a few shotgun shells for skeet shooting and hop onto a golf cart for the next round.

"Look how sweaty my hands are," said Ashley Rocha, a makeup artist. "My hands are literally sweating. I'm so scared."

Curiosity trumps Fear. Toronto tourist Ashley Rocha just couldn't leave Las Vegas without shooting a gun for the first time. It'd be easy to mistake the Strip Gun Club on Sahara Avenue for a night lounge. It's customer base are women wanting something more welcoming than the industrial concrete than marks most gun ranges.

Nevada Gun Poll Results

Even with its hip interior, the Strip Gun Club is part of the arms race in Las Vegas between ranges fighting for the highest weapons caliber.

At first, Rocha struggles to handle the gun properly but within a few minutes her aim improves.

"I want to get the eye to the right," she said, as she selects her target.

AK47's, AR-15's and other guns previously banned under the federal Assault Weapons Ban are the key to the business model of Las Vegas' growing number of gun ranges. Six ranges opened in just the past few months. Hundreds of people, each day, pay local businesses good money to shoot the military-style weapons that are the focus of such divisive debate. Las Vegas' gun industry is reshaping that debate.

"In a previous life, I was very anti-gun, anything having to do with weapons. I never realized the sport of it," said Sandra Nathan, another satisfied customer at Battlefield Vegas.

 


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