The deeply saddening news of a firing range instructor's accidental shooting death earlier this week has once again brought the spotlight onto the United States' loosely regulated, gun-happy culture. The instructor, who was accidentally shot and killed by an 9 year old who lost control of the recoil when wielding a fully automatic Uzi, worked at a popular Arizona firing range that frequently attracts visitors from around the world. This death sheds necessary, albeit unfortunate, light onto the tragic side of America's gun tourism industry.
America's love for guns, proliferated through the lens of mass-media reporting and Hollywood's glorification of violence, has become a major part of our cultural identity - an identity which is the subject of much curiosity and intrigue to foreign sportsmen and sportswomen; travelers eager to experience American culture to its fullest. In comparison to the rest of the western world, the United States' stance on legal possession of firearms is fairly relaxed, allowing citizens to own and carry a variety of guns, ranging from pistols to assault rifles. Some states have more specific regulations in place, but America's sparse and inconsistent regulatory practices draw a wide range of tourists with a hankering to go shooting. World-class firearms are often prohibited in the country of origin of many of these travelers.
Each year travelers from all over the globe flock to firing ranges in the United States, often after seeing advertisements flaunting high-powered guns which are easily recognized from famous movie scenes or warfare narratives. The eagerness to engage in the once-in-a-lifetime thrills of shooting weapons which have graced the screens of favorite action flicks or TV shows is easy for many to understand.
Firing ranges located in Hawaii have noticed a surge in tourist traffic from south-east Asia and Japan in recent years and these ranges attribute much of this increased business to the relatively lax gun regulations in the U.S. Under most circumstances going shooting at a firing range while under professional supervision is a safe endeavor that not only allows patrons to enjoy an exciting experience, but it is also a pursuit which bolsters the American tourism industry - both inherently positive benefits of gun tourism.
Unfortunately, the dangers associated with loosely regulated availability to powerful firearms, often overlooked in favor of perceived freedoms, was brought into the spotlight by the unnecessary and accidental death of a trained firearm instructor at a popular and very successful firing range - one which commonly hosts swaths of "gun tourists." In response to this tragedy, many gun ranges are reviewing their safety procedures and installing fail-safe systems, such as recoil tethering, to help prevent future accidents and fatalities.
Because America's national culture is permeated by gun ownership and gun use advocacy, it's safe to assume that tourists to America will continue to engage in gun tourism activities, hopefully with a more comprehensive understanding of the inherent risks, potential safety hazards, and cultural implications of firearm usage in the United States.