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Shooting Gallery Joins Other Florida Tourist Attractions

December 11, 1993

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Tourists visiting the Magic Kingdom, Sea World and Universal Studios can add another attraction to their list of activities: the Quick Shots shooting range.

The range, which rents and sells guns and equipment, is just minutes from popular theme parks and tourist attractions, rankling city officials who fear shooting ranges will tarnish the area’s family-vacation image.

But Quick Shots owner Robert Maharaj disagrees. ″We are catering to the families,″ he said.

″I think it’s good fun,″ said Debra Kirby of London, attending the grand opening of the 18-lane gun range with her husband and children. ″I think it will be very popular for the English because it’s different.″

Nearby, her husband Paul Kirby, 35, helped their 7-year-old son, Sunny, aim a .357-caliber Magnum at a silhouette target. ″Point it there. Lower.″

Sunny, wearing ear and eye protection, hit his target with six rounds. The Kirbys were among the first customers Thursday.

A second range on the International Drive tourist corridor is scheduled to open early next year.

Customers can rent a gun for $25 per half hour, not including ammunition and targets. The range also has a snack bar, video games, and a paintball shooting gallery.

Another Briton, Marie McNaughton, 53, was having her first try using a .38- caliber pistol.

″I don’t like it,″ she said. ″It doesn’t feel right.″

She handed the pistol back to her husband, Robert, and joined Mrs. Kirby.

″It’s a shame everyone in this country has guns,″ Mrs. McNaughton said. ″People are frightened to come here now. But I guess it’s the same in other places.″

The city tried to prevent the shooting range from opening, but Maharaj sued, arguing zoning laws permitted gun ranges in the area. The city has since passed an ordinance to prevent other ranges on International Drive.

Despite violent crime against foreign tourists in Florida this summer, including the slaying of a German and a Briton during separate robbery attempts in September, visitors haven’t abandoned the Sunshine State.

In the first nine months of the year, Florida’s tourist count increased 2.5 percent to 31.7 million. That’s up over the same period in 1992, when 31 million people visited, the Florida Department of Commerce reported Friday.

City Council member Sheldon Watson, who represents a part of the tourist strip, said he still is uncomfortable about it but plans to visit Quick Shots to see how safe it is.

″I don’t feel that’s really a right place for them to be when there are a lot of tourists,″ Watson told The Orlando Sentinel. ″It tends to bring weapons into a tourist area. They are antsy enough as it is.″

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