By Marisa Gerber
6:45 AM PST, February 15, 2013
Some might have viewed it as an odd way to mark Valentine's Day, but some found it the perfect Feb. 14 combo: Love and guns.
At a gun range in Minnesota, people who showed up with their sweethearts by their side got to shoot a machine gun for free. In Mississippi, cars zoomed by a billboard making a sales pitch: "Buy her a diamond, get a hunting shotgun."
And at a Las Vegas shooting range that also performs “shotgun weddings,” a couple renewed their vows Thursday.
For the Gun Store, located a few miles east of the Strip in Las Vegas, the improbable combo has been profitable.
Since the company started offering shotgun weddings last spring -- couples get married, pose for pictures with an arsenal and then head to the range with their bridal parties -- they’ve performed more than three dozen ceremonies, the shop's marketing manager, Emily Miller, told the Los Angeles Times.
“It’s an interesting spin on Vegas,” Miller said. “People come here to do crazy things. It’s a cute ceremony.”
To Josh Sugarmann, a native of Newtown, Conn., where a man gunned down 20 first-graders in December, gun-themed marketing strikes him as “insensitive.”
“I think there’s always someone somewhere who’s trying to find a new gimmick to market firearms," said Sugarmann, who is also the executive director of the Washington-based Violence Policy Center. “The gun industry will do anything to try to create an opportunity to sell the next gun. They often try to put a happy face on firearms.”
For Chris Thompson, who owns Carter's Diamond Jewelers in Picayune, Miss., his buy-a-diamond-get-a-gun deal was about knowing his clientele, not about making a statement.
He had heard about another jewelry store offering a similar sale and decided to try it out during Christmas. The billboard is still up -- the river is too high to take it down, Thompson said, through a laugh -- but the sale is over. Before it ended, nine people spent more than $1,500 at his shop and got certificates to claim hunting shotguns from a local gun shop.
Thompson said the sale got positive buzz around town and that he's considering doing another one.
“I wouldn’t say anybody looked at it negatively,” Thompson said. “It’s a hunting shotgun. It’s not like it’s an assault rifle or anything."
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