Monday, July 9, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Map of Shoppes at the Palazzo
3325 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas
A political fight that will undoubtedly tug at the heartstrings of gun-lovers and haters throughout Clark County is about to erupt over plans for a new store on the Las Vegas Strip.
Against the wishes of attorneys for the Venetian and Wynn resorts, operators of the Shoppes at Palazzo mall obtained a use permit for a Beretta gun store and shooting range from the Clark County Planning Commission.
The Palazzo adjoins the Venetian. General Growth Properties, not the Venetian, operates both the malls inside the Palazzo and the Venetian. The Beretta store would occupy about 19,000 square feet of the Shoppes.
What do the lawyers and other casinos have against the Beretta store?
During a presentation Tuesday night before the Planning Commission, Fred Kraus, Venetian vice president and general counsel, said putting a gun store inside of a casino is “a tragedy waiting to happen.”
Kraus, who hinted that if Clark County didn’t kill this idea a court battle was likely, said the gun store would be a half-story from a casino and an exit to the Strip.
“They say you can’t buy ammunition but you can take a gun off site,” Kraus said. “Our worst fear is the wrong person takes a gun, has ammunition secreted away outside the place and uses the casino floor as a firing range.”
Kraus also said a gun store/shooting range wasn’t compatible with the other high-end stores in the mall. The Shoppes aren’t known for their bread-and-butter stores or comfort-food restaurants. Bellusso, Canali, Piazza Sempione and Viaggi, to say nothing of Victoria’s Secret, Rare Books and Barneys are some of the stores. You won’t find Pizza Hut or Cane’s there, either.
On the other hand, Greg Borgel, representing the Italian gunmaker, said this store would be one of a handful of high-end Beretta outlets, similar to one on New York City’s Madison Avenue. He said a single Beretta shotgun can sell for as much as $200,000.
The store must have some pretty strident safety measures planned, right?
It does, but Kraus attempted to use that fact against the store. He said the volume of security measures “is an indication of the dangerousness of this application.”
He summarized one security provision as “all store employees will refuse access to anyone who appears to them to be strange, unstable, alcohol on their breath, agitated.”
“This one security feature alone is premised … upon a store employee being able to pick out someone who is unstable or agitated,” he said. “I don’t know how you identify someone like that.”
Did the Planning Commission agree?
No. One planning commissioner even verged on calling Kraus a hypocrite, because the Venetian & Sands Expo is home to The Shot Show every year, at which gun makers exhibit their wares. However, Venetian attorneys said, exhibited guns have firing pins removed and guns are not sold at the show.
But J. Dapper, who sits on the Planning Commission, said nowhere in the Venetian’s agreement with General Growth Properties does it prohibit gun stores in the Shoppes mall. How did the lawyers answer that?
“I don’t think anyone dreamed, all the New York lawyers who worked on this, dreamed of a firing range in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip,” Kraus replied. In backup documents, county staff noted Silverton casino already had a store that sold guns. Kraus dismissed the Silverton as not comparable to the Venetian. Commissioner Donna Tagliaferri seemed to take offense at that notion.
“They say they have a better clientele than the Silverton; they’re not much different,” she said. She also dismissed the notion that the store would lead to a casino shooting.
“People are going to do what they’re going to do. I don’t know if this is going to say to a crazed killer, ‘Oh, I have carte blanche at the Palazzo.’”
Isn’t there a 72-hour waiting period for guns in Clark County, which would prevent that immediate, albeit “crazed,” reaction?
The 72-hour period applies to pistols. Everyone but law enforcement personnel and those who already own a registered gun must adhere to the waiting period. More specifically, county code says the waiting period doesn’t apply to someone “who currently owns a pistol which is duly registered in his name with any law enforcement agency in Clark County.”
Gun store operators contacted by the Sun said neither the state nor county requires a waiting period for rifles or shotguns.
The Planning Commission voted 4-1 for the store. Greg Esposito voted no. Why?
Esposito said he worried about people walking into the Palazzo with their own guns, thinking they’d be allowed to use the Beretta shooting range. That won’t be allowed, but he doesn’t think everyone will realize that right away.
But since heavy hitters like the Wynn also wrote a letter protesting the store, this will be appealed, right?
Sources say the Venetian plans to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision to the Clark County Commission.