Responsible gun owners ought to feel revulsion at Machine Gun America.
Many people take the time to learn about their firearms.
They spend days — years, even —sharpening their shooting skills and knowledge.
And they take pains to practice good safety, such as locking guns and ammunition away from kids.
Machine Gun America, which opens today in Kissimmee and calls itself “Orlando’s first Automatic Adrenaline Attraction,” reduces a serious skill to a cheap thrill.
Machine Gun America attraction to open in Kissimmee
Visitors can pull the trigger at Central Florida’s “first Automatic Adrenaline Attraction” later this month when Machine Gun America opens on the U.S. Highway 192 tourist strip.
“If I was teaching somebody to shoot, this isn’t even the Reader’s Digest version … this is just a taste … really just the thrill of it,” Wes Doss, the attraction’s safety and training director, told me.
But that’s precisely the problem.
It’s not that Doss doesn’t care about safety. He does. And he says the attraction is designed to be as safe as possible.
Allowing someone as young as 13 (with parental permission) to walk in off the street without any firearms experience and shoot a fully automatic weapon shouldn’t be an attraction at all.
Firing a machine gun should be left to people who know what they’re doing.
Not novices who have a little energy and money left after a day at the Magic Kingdom and decide they want to blow away some zombies or gangsters before heading back to the hotel.
That’s not just my opinion.
Take it from Ernie Myers, an Orlando attorney and firearms instructor.
“Firearms should not be used as a substitute for amusement-park rides,” said Myers, who is also vice president of the Central Florida Rifle and Pistol Club.
Myers is a Second Amendment advocate. And he enjoys shooting for fun in competitions.
Still, he doesn’t like the idea of giving just anyone access to a fully automatic weapon.
“It’s the ‘Ooohhh, isn’t this a cool thing to do,’ without having the gravitas of understanding what you are doing.”
A machine designed to kill shouldn’t double as vacation bucket-list item. Or be treated like a toy.
Something doesn’t seem right about pulling over on U.S. Highway 192 — across from the carnival games and bumper cars of Old Town and next to a Denny’s — plunking down some cash and picking up an automatic weapon without any real training.
But this is America. And what Machine Gun America is doing is perfectly legal.
I also believe Doss, the attraction’s safety director, when he says it operates as safely as possible.
He says a trained safety officer will have one hand on shooters’ shoulders at all times, prepared to take control of the weapon if necessary.
But just because something is possible doesn’t make it the right thing to do.
And mistakes can be fatal.
Last summer a 9-year-old girl accidentally shot her instructor in the head, killing him, while she shot an Uzi at a firearms tourist attraction near Las Vegas.
Doss said the death was a “complete and total lapse of safety on the instructor’s part” and called the circumstances a “smear on everybody’s faces.”
At the very least, the instructor’s death shows how little room there is for error.
I’d say the same thing about NASCAR’s Richard Petty Driving Experience or Skydive DeLand if they allowed people to just walk in off the street and jump out of plane on their own or roar around the track at more than 100 mph.
But they don’t.
Skydive DeLand requires jumpers to be at least 18 years old. And first-timers get at least 20 minutes of instruction for a tandem jump during which they do nothing except ride along with an experienced instructor. First-timers who want to jump solo must go through a six-hour ground school.
The driving experience in Central Florida requires drivers to be 18 and sit through an hour of instruction before Petty wannabes can take the wheel for a few laps.
At Machine Gun America, however, the focus isn’t on instruction, which lasts a few minutes. It’s pretending you’re Rick Grimes. Or James Bond. Or Scarface.
The attraction very much plays on what customers think they know about guns from watching movies and television.
And not at all on what responsible firearm owners know about reality.