April 19, 2020

Shooting range and gun store shut down days after owner announced he would defy state order

A prominent gun store and indoor shooting range was shut down by state police earlier this week after the owner publicly announced he would remain open for business despite a state order temporarily banning commercial gun sales. 

In an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state, state officials have limited the types of businesses that can remain open under a public health emergency. 

Louie Sanchez, the owner of Calibers and a recent Republican U.S. Senate hopeful, posted on Facebook that on Thursday night the New Mexico State Police shut down his business. 

“It’s amazing how the Governor is picking ‘winners and losers’ as small businesses are closed all over the state and thousands of people are now unemployed,” Sanchez wrote. “Small businesses new and old which will never recover or reopen they’re (sic) doors again.”

Sanchez did not respond to an inquiry from NM Report, but in his social media post he expressed his frustration with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for allowing “big box stores” to stay open and sell some of the same products that smaller, local businesses are unable to sell because of the state order only allowing essential services to remain open to the public. 

During a state Republican Party press conference earlier in the week, Sanchez announced that he would reopen his business regardless of the state’s orders. After that meeting, a spokesperson for the governor’s office said that state restrictions allow shooting ranges to remain open for law enforcement and by appointment only.  

But on Friday night, after Sanchez announced his business was forced to shut down, another spokesperson said Calibers was apparently still selling guns. 

Spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said she didn’t have any additional comments on the matter but that it was likely the gun sales and not the open shooting range that resulted in a cease and desist order from state police. 

“My understanding is that while Calibers was complying with the provision to only open the shooting range by appointment to law enforcement, they were continuing to do curbside sales, which is not allowed per the public health order, and which they had been told was not allowed –hence the cease and desist,” Meyers Sackett said. 

Meyers Sackett referred further questions about the cease and desist order to the state police

A New Mexico State Police spokesperson said the department received a complaint just after 4:30 p.m. on April 16 that Calibers was not complying with the state’s public health order. According to Sanchez’s social media post, his business was shut down by 5:00 p.m.

The New Mexico Department of Health and Lujan Grisham declared a public health emergency last month and issued an order restricting certain activities in the state. Since then, there have been a series of amendments to the state order. Currently, only essential businesses can stay open for in-person services and public gatherings are limited to five people. Republicans and some small businesses around the state have called on the governor to loosen restrictions for some businesses in rural areas that do not have high numbers of positive COVID-19 tests. But the governor’s office has argued that those less populated areas, with fewer medical resources are at just as much risk as other parts of the state.

Update: Added information from New Mexico State Police