Hawaii Hospitality January/February 2015 - (Page 12)

GUN TOURISM Hawaii's gun clubs are proving especially popular among Asian vistors who see firearms on TV but are unable to use them at home BY CATHY CRUZ-GEORGE T hrough a viewing window, Nobure Kuroiwa watched her husband, Junbei, pull the trigger on a Beretta handgun. The bullet shot out of the barrel and pierced the center of a paper target, startling their daughter, Yuri, who was resting in a baby carrier on Nobure's back. Nobure and Junbei-both cabbage farmers from Gunma, Japan-spent 10 days on Oahu this past December. This was Junbei's third jaunt to the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club (RHSC) and his family's first visit to Hawaii. "My husband likes to play on his PlayStation 4, especially video games with guns, so he was excited to hold and shoot a real weapon," says Nobure, raising a video camera to the window to capture Junbei beaming proudly at his wife and daughter, who celebrated her second birthday the next day with Disney characters at the Aulani resort. The video footage was like pirate's booty back in Japan, where stringent laws limit access guns. Junbei was among the thousands of vacationers who-between shopping, sightseeing and sunbathing-patronized gun clubs in Waikiki last year. "Gun ranges are great in that it gives people, who are from countries that don't have the second amendment, a taste of what it's like to shoot," says Harvey Gerwig II, president of the Hawaii Rifle Association. The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau no longer tracks the number of visitors to gun ranges. However, industry leaders estimate as many as 145,000 local, foreign and U.S. Mainland customers annually patronize the rifle clubs in Waikiki. 12 Hawaii Hospitality January/February 2015 ■ Competition is fierce among the clubs. They buy full-spread ads in Japanese magazines and hire part-time workers to pass out fliers on streets. They offer packages ranging from $30 (three guns with 26 shots) to $375 (customized number of guns with 100 shots). They tout stellar safety records ("no accidents in 20 years!" is commonly heard) and tether the guns to the booths, so customers can only fire in one direction. GUNS IN HAWAII * Visitors to Hawaii must register their guns with the Honolulu Police Department within 72 hours of arrival to the state. Gun owners must provide proof of U.S. citizenship. * A record high total of 22,765 private and personal firearms permit applications were processed in Hawaii in 2013, a 4.6 percent increase over 2012. * A total of 21,544 private and personal firearms permits were issued statewide in 2013, resulting in a record high total of 60,757 registered firearms in the state of Hawaii. Customers primarily hail from Japan, Australia, New Zealand and populated cities in South America and Europe. Rarely are they from South Korea, where military service is compulsory for men ages 18-35. Children can shoot at any of the gun ranges but must be accompanied by a parent, meet the 4-foot, 7-inch height requirement and are limited to the .22 caliber pistols. Business can be sporadic, depending on the season. Traffic flow is nonstop following the Honolulu Marathon and between Christmas and New Year's Day. Customers tend to shoot between 3 and 7 p.m. and again from 9 p.m. to midnight. If customers reek of alcohol or fail a breathalyzer test, they're asked to leave. On a midday morning in early December, two elderly Japanese men clad in golf shirts and slacks stood in the sleek lobby of the RHSC, inquiring about the number of rounds per package. Aiko Tanaka, a manager with a friendly, professional demeanor, stood behind the counter, explaining each gun's features. After 10 minutes, the men promised Tanaka they would return later in the week. The duo exited the RHSC's glass doors and headed toward the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center's fourth-floor escalators, located next to the viewing window from where Nobure watched Junbei the day prior. Tanaka says men of all ages are drawn to the $149 Super Course package. Included are: a Glock 17, Beretta and 357 Magnum. Women prefer the $120 Royal Course for its 9-millimeter and .22-caliber pistols. "Gun shooting used to be a man's activity, but I'm seeing more women now," says Tanaka, who has worked at the club for 18 years. "If you're a girl living alone, you would want to know how to properly handle a gun." The RHSC is an international depot. Employees speak multiple languages, and merchandise bearing the club's logo are displayed next to autographed photos of celebrities, including Japanese

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Hawaii Hospitality January/February 2015

Women & Their Power
HLTA’s Culinary Gala
HRA for the Holidays
Gun Tourism
When Visitors Get Sick
Luxury Limo Services
Na Poe Paahana Awards
Tips from Engineers
Women in Lodging
Aloha Ambassadors
News Briefs
Talk Story
At the Table

Hawaii Hospitality January/February 2015