LOUISVILLE — As the sun dropped behind the tree line at the Knob Creek Gun Range, the crowd of 8,500 began pressing forward against the fence that separated them from the objects of their fascination. The mostly white, mostly male spectators had traveled from all over to watch what Knob Creek has become famous for, its Saturday night machine gun shoot. Since 9 a.m. the day before, the range had been a ballistic bacchanal as dozens of shooters, armed with guns that traced the entire history of automatic weaponry, raked an almost ceaseless barrage of bullets at propane tanks, busted home appliances, old jalopies, boats and SUVs. Casings cascaded like confetti. Black smoke from burning cars billowed into the clear Kentucky sky. But all this was merely a warmup exercise to that night’s spectacle, when the riddled appliances were replaced with 50-gallon drums of gasoline and diesel. When the range master yelled “Fire!” this time, the darkness was sliced by the bright lines of tracer fire. A wall of sound was followed immediately by a dozen fiery mushroom clouds. The cheers of the crowd filled the gaps between the gunfire.
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