It’s a fixture of Miami Beach’s air space: a banner with a woman holding a piece of heavy artillery beckoning, “Shoot Machine Guns.”
The banner belongs to Lock and Load Miami, a gun range in the heart of Wynwood that’s been open since 2013.
And now, some are taking to social media to voice their complaints about it.
“I took these photos in November while on vacation in Florida, where, like the rest of the country, semiautomatic weapons are glamorized, marketed, and used for leisurely pleasure/murder,” posted Ladufurrena, a Boise, Idaho, mom and self-described “space geek” on Twitter.
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“It ... seems like a sick joke, the sign reading “shoot machine guns” so out of place amidst the beauty of Miami Beach,” Aane144S, a Canada-based mother of two, also posted on Twitter.
Still, Lock and Load continues to see a steady stream of visitors, many of whom have posted positive reviews on TripAdvisor.com even after the Feb. 14 Parkland school shooting. It retains the No. 1 rating in the “Fun and Games” category for TripAdvisor’s “things to do” category in Miami. Many of those who posted are out-of-towners.
One recent Lock and Load visitor was John, a 33-year-old first responder on vacation from New York City, who spoke with the Herald as he was leaving the range. He found the shooting range through Google while looking for a place in South Florida to use the types of automatic weapons that are banned in his hometown. He declined to give his last name.
Just days after the shooting, John said he had no qualms about using weapons like assault rifles. “I’m a first responder so the value of life is really high to me,” he said.
So what do Lock and Load’s Wynwood neighbors think about the gun range?
A spokesperson for the Wynwood Business Improvement District declined to comment other than to say that Lock and Lord’s landowner, Patbe Investments LLC, was a dues-paying member. So did several other neighbors, including Dishes for Dogs.
Local activist Grant Stern, who voiced concern about Lock and Load when it first opened five years ago, said the gun range has kept a low profile.
“From the outside, they’ve been a decent neighbor,” he said. His larger concern was whether they could be having an environmental impact; other gun ranges have come under fire in Florida for their environmental impact. No claims have been filed against it in civil court. Private gun ranges do not need separate permits to operate in Florida.
Spokespeople for both Lock and Load and Aerial Banners Inc., which flies many advertising banners over Miami Beach, declined to comment on whether the banner is still being flown over the beach since the Parkland shooting. The Greater Miami Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau did not respond to a request for comment about the banner and its potential effect on the Miami brand.
David, a 39-year-old visiting from Spain with his wife, Susan, stopped in at Lock and Load while walking through Wynwood on a recent Saturday. They declined to give their last names.
“It was free, why not,” David said.
But there was something odd about the service Lock and Load was providing, he said.
“One the one side, you get in there and you really see the history, the weapons, the technology, it’s fascinating. But the same time we’re talking about tools for killing people. There’s no way around it. It’s unsettling.”