I am posting the 911 call from “Last Stop Bullets and Burgers,” a shooting range/restaurant/tourist attraction in the far corner of NW Arizona, 60 miles from Las Vegas. There, on August 25th, a nine-year-old girl accidentally shot her “instructor” in the head after her parents payed for her to play with an Uzi.
I post it with some reservation. It’s difficult to listen to Last Stop staff desperately trying to save 39-year-old Charles Vacca’s life as they wait for emergency assistance to come to their remote section of the desert. Frustrating to hear their clear lack of preparation, training, or even forethought should something go wrong at the shooting range. Still, I think it is something we should hear as we continue to consider our country’s relationship with guns.
Last Stop Bullets and Burgers is one of a growing number businesses cropping up in the fledgling “gun tourism” industry. Genghis Cohen (got to love the name) the owner of Machine Guns Vegas, another place inexperienced shooters can play with automatic weapons, says upwards of 90 percent of his customers are tourists. “People see guns as a big part of American culture, and they want to experience American culture,” he told reporters after the shooting.
What visitors to Last Stop Burgers and Bullets get when they arrive by helicopter or a souped up Humvee from Las Vegas is a carnival-setting offering visitors a chance to shoot machine guns in a “Desert Storm atmosphere,” with “bunkers, sniper classes, plus helicopter rides over the Grand Canyon.” People, apparently lots of them, pay anywhere from $50.00 to $1800.00 for their, “All American Adventure.” For a thousand bucks they can even have the “Ultimate Bachelor or Bachelorette Party.”
What could possibly go wrong in that scenario?
Perhaps the same thing that went wrong after putting an Uzi in a nine year old’s hands. And that little girl’s parents are not anomalies, as we may like to think. Last Stop offers, “fun for the whole family” as shown in this video from Last Stop’s own web site.
My question, as I watch this, is why? Why put that gun in that little boy’s hands? What good comes from it? Fun? Yeah, sure. Thrill? That too, probably. But what lesson does that experience teach? I’ve worked on farms and ranches, and I know kids who’ve learned to use their mom and dad’s rifle or shotgun early. For them, it is a tool, and they are taught to be responsible, careful, and to never treat those tools like toys. Ever. That, I get.
What they do at Last Stop—I do not get, and neither do I get parents that would somehow think putting a machine gun in their child’s hands is a good idea. A part of me, the cynical dark part, thinks of Darwin, and says, ‘what the hell? Let them play with guns.’ But the bigger part of me understands that places like Bullets and Burgers are a symptom of disease we refuse to confront.
The owner of Last Stop Burgers and Bullets, Sam Scarmardo (another great name,) calls what happened at his shooting range “tragic.” But, according to him, that does not mean he needs to change anything. Kids, from age eight, will still be allowed to shoot automatic weapons at his place.
After all, what could possibly go wrong?
|I took the first and last picture in October, 2014 while on my way to the Grand Canyon. I pulled over to take the photos but quickly got back in my car when I heard the report of a machine gun very, very close by.|