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The CEO of an Albuquerque gun store and shooting range that has reopened amid a statewide order closing nonessential businesses is defending the legality of the move, putting the shop at apparent odds with law enforcement and the Governor’s Office.
Calibers, which operates three Albuquerque locations, including a gun safe store, reopened using a curbside model this week as of Wednesday. CEO Ryan Burt said the store’s operations are legal because it is following Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s mandate regarding social distancing and limiting gatherings to five or fewer people.
“We’re actually abiding by the governor and what she says,” he said.
State Police and the Governor’s Office both say gun store operations remain illegal under the public health order.
“Gun stores are considered as a nonessential business, per the public health order, and they are not allowed to conduct business curbside,” New Mexico State Police spokesman Dusty Francisco said.
Francisco said State Police are educating businesses that are violating the order. State police say they have not visited Calibers since noncompliance enforcement began April 6. It was not immediately clear whether other law enforcement agencies had visited Calibers for noncompliance issues.Noncompliant businesses face receiving a written warning and cease-and-desist letter. A second violation results in a citation. Businesses in continued violation can face a $5,000 penalty.
The Governor’s Office didn’t respond to a Journal query Wednesday afternoon on the issue, but last week said firearm stores are not deemed essential businesses.
Burt argues Calibers is an essential business because its shooting range remains open for law enforcement and military personel only. The governor’s order includes “all facilities routinely used by law enforcement personnel” as essential. Burt said that means the mandate that nonessential businesses reduce their workforce by 100% doesn’t apply.
“The other piece of this is because the president deemed that we are an essential business and the Department of Homeland Security has deemed us as an essential business, that is why we are still operating ; in this method,” he said.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, released a memo March 28 advising that workers involved in firearm retail, distribution and shooting ranges be deemed essential amid the pandemic. The memo was classified as advisory.
Calibers isn’t the only local gun retailer remaining partly open. Los Ranchos Gun Shop’s website says it is open through a similar curbside model. Some stores, though, have closed completely.
Last week, several pro-gun organizations filed a lawsuit against the governor over the closure of gun stores and shooting ranges.