Just as local and state tourism officials tried to shed Phoenix's unbecoming title as the "kidnapping capital of America," another national moniker has emerged: gun-crazy.
A man carrying a pistol and semiautomatic rifle outside the Phoenix hall where President Barack Obama spoke this month ignited a media firestorm, reinforcing the stereotype of the Grand Canyon State as a gun-loving vestige of the Wild West.The firearms display, later revealed to be a publicity stunt, was legal under an Arizona law that allows most citizens to openly carry guns in public without a permit.
Before the gun incident, tales of Mexican drug cartels abducting rival smugglers and immigrants and holding them for ransom in Valley homes had already painted Phoenix as a city under siege.
The perception of Arizona is extremely important. The tourism and convention industry pumped $18.5 billion into the Arizona economy last year, generating $2.6 billion in local, state and federal taxes and supporting 170,000 jobs.
Many people denounced the open carry incident as foolish, even some pro-gun folks said it was counter-productive to their cause. The New Yourk Times said this on August 20.
"It is hard to know what is more shocking: the sight of a dozen Americans showing up to flaunt guns outside the venue for President Obama's speech in Phoenix on Monday, or the fact that the swaggering display was completely legal."
But by far the most damage was done by Arthur Frommer.
Founder of the Frommer's series of travel guidebooks, Frommer wrote that he would no longer visit Arizona, fearing for his personal safety after reading accounts of protesters carrying loaded weapons on the streets of Phoenix.
Frommer, who sold his company decades ago, was unavailable for comment. But he told NPR last weekend he was disturbed police officers stood around "like scared rabbits" while armed protesters tried to "threaten" and "intimidate" Obama supporters.
"Open-carry laws have to take second place to public order and to life," said Frommer, a New York Democrat and Obama campaign contributor. When NPR host Guy Raz suggested Frommer was making Arizona sound like war-torn Mogadishu, Frommer responded: "Well, it's getting that way. . . . The number of guns that are now being carried by citizens in Arizona is becoming frightening."
What's your opinion? Do you think the New York Times and Arthur Frommer speak for most Americans? Even if the rhetoric is a bit strong, Mogadishu and all that, is their point well taken? Do you think some of that convention business will move up to Las Vegas? Would it be much different up there?
Please leave a comment.