On the right, confusion and anger after gun shops not listed 'essential'

The Big 5 Sporting Goods store on Cerrillos Road was expecting a new shipment of ammunition at 11 a.m. Tuesday — just hours after the governor’s shutdown order took effect — according to a sign on the door.

Confusion reigns at New Mexico gun stores, where owners say Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s emergency public health order to limit the spread of the new coronavirus has left many wondering whether they’re allowed to stay open or in what capacity.

Although the public health order instituted last week unambiguously states all businesses not identified as essential were supposed to have closed by 8 a.m. Tuesday — and gun stores were not on the list — some have defied the edict.

Gun stores in New Mexico are interpreting the governor’s order liberally.

Some closed a day late or have resorted to online sales, restricting the number of people in the building or selling merchandise from the parking lot, according to Zach Fort, president of the New Mexico Shooting Association, an independent state affiliate of the National Rifle Association.

Republicans, meanwhile, are clashing with the Governor’s Office at a time when many gun shops and sporting goods retailers saw such a spike in demand for weapons and ammunition that they ran out — or came close to running out — of inventory in the weeks before Lujan Grisham ordered them and other nonessential businesses to close.

In neighboring Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, listed gun stores as essential businesses.

“I understand the aspect of wanting to protect society and everything from a flu, but this is way overkill,” said Arnie Gallegos, owner of ABQ Guns, which is only doing online transfers of firearms already purchased.

“This is Nazi Germany, dude,” Gallegos said.

Big 5 Sporting Goods stores across the state closed last week. The Santa Fe store on Cerrillos Road was expecting a new shipment of ammunition at 11 a.m. Tuesday — just hours after the governor’s shutdown order took effect — according to a sign on the door. The sign warned customers they’d be limited to five boxes of ammo apiece on delivery day.

The night before, an apologetic store clerk explained to customers that handgun ammunition was sold out but would be available Tuesday.

A call to Big 5 that day went unanswered.

The Outdoorsman of Santa Fe, located in the DeVargas Center, did not return a message seeking comment. The mall, like others in the state, was ordered closed even before last week’s public health order.

Louie Sanchez, an owner of Calibers gun range in Albuquerque and a previous Republican primary candidate for U.S. Senate before dropping out of the race, said the store had shut down the firing range. It allows one customer at a time in the store to buy ammunition. The business is sold out of firearms, he said.

“The challenge is the governor’s order is incomprehensible,” said Mark Abramson, owner of Los Ranchos gun store in Albuquerque, which is only allowing people to pick up firearms they’d already purchased before the order took effect.

“There’s a clear exception for security and police, and the challenge is if you’re a hardware store that sells guns, it appears you’re OK,” he said. “If you’re a gas station that sells ammunition, you’re OK. They appear to be, in enforcement, anyway, selecting a single industry, yet we’re providing the same service.

“The police have driven by like four times to make sure we’re shut down or largely shut down, and we are,” Abramson added.

Nora Meyers Sackett, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in an email the order is clear: “If a business is not listed as essential in the order, then they’re not essential and they are ordered closed.

“Businesses need to be looking for ways to opt into the order to close, not for excuses to opt out,” Sackett continued. “This is true for every single business in every single industry. We understand it’s so hard for businesses to change or suspend their operations in this way. But public health demands it. … This is the only way we will slow the spread of the virus.”

To many gun owners and would-be first-time buyers, the shutdown of gun stores is a big problem, Republicans say.

A handful have said publicly they believe the coronavirus pandemic could cause a breakdown in society or widespread looting. And they want to be prepared — with guns and bullets.

“Many people are feeling even more vulnerable in these uncertain and turbulent times,” Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce said in a statement. “The blanket order for nonessential business is understandable, but we believe the inclusion of gun stores as non-essential should be reconsidered to allow people to purchase protective firearms.”

Alexis Johnson, a vocal, pro-gun Republican candidate running for the state’s 3rd Congressional District seat, has said she can’t sleep at night without ammunition.

“In no way was I an extremist,” she said last week. “I was just a constitutional Second Amendment right bearer.

“And now, we are in a pandemic. We have volatility in our economics, we see that people are scared.”

Johnson told her supporters on Facebook that gun stores have been forced to close by “police escort.”

Another Republican candidate, Elisa Martinez, who is running for U.S. Senate against U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, said she thinks Lujan Grisham “is obsessed with going after responsible gun owners.”

That’s the feeling of many on the political right.

Although the NRA declined to comment publicly, the association’s lobbying arm has informed its supporters that many gun shops have defiantly remained open because “the governor’s order did not explicitly order them closed,” an NRA email said.

“Your NRA-ILA [Institute for Legislative Action] has now learned that Governor Grisham is making her anti-gun proclivities clear by tasking the State Patrol with driving by gun stores and telling dealers that they are, and will remain, closed to the public,” the email continued, urging people to inquire about online sales.

Fort of the New Mexico Shooting Association said gun stores have been contacted by state police and informed they can continue online sales, a belief he said is keeping more widespread anger over the governor’s order at bay for now.

But according to state police, that is still in violation of the public health order. To complete an online firearm transaction, the buyer has to come to the store for an in-person background check, as required by federal law. Showing up in person to a nonessential business violates the order.

Officer Dusty Francisco, a state police spokesman, said the agency is not yet “enforcing full closure,” but officers are informing gun store owners they are supposed to be closed and remaining open could subject them to civil or criminal penalties.

Francisco added that “there’s no time frame” on how long shops have until police begin issuing fines for violating the emergency public health order. He also said he was not aware of state police telling gun store owners they can continue selling firearms online.

(34) comments

Julian Grace

Please don't blame the governor or the state government for your lack of action when it comes to guns and ammo ownership. My guns are safely stored and I have enough ammo for at least 40 shots. I have no need for extra, for now anyway. When this blows over I'll spend what ammo I have for practice - right after I purchase new ammo for self defense. If you're out of ammo and don't own a gun or two, that's your fault, not the governor's or the government's.

Nathan Lambert

I recently moved here to Santa Fe. One of the reasons for my moving here rather than other career options I had was the relatively unrestrictive gun laws. Between this and the passage of the recent red flag law, I am not happy. The governor is slowly trampling our 2nd amendment rights as well as our rights to due process. I assure you I will vote against her in the next election and I will do everything within my power to make sure as many people as possible do as well. Look at how many 2A sanctuary counties there are in this state; the people of New Mexico, by and large, do not want your garbage gun control laws.

Khal Spencer

Holy smokes. Lots of deleted comments. Come on folks, we have enough problems right now without getting nasty.

Rich McKeever

How can we know they were nasty if they have been deleted? It may be that they made very lucid, effective points which could not be defeated by a reasoned debate so that tool the left loves more than any, censorship, silencing, call it what you will, was employed. But I guess we'll never know now, will we, because they were deleted.

I wonder what are the political proclivities of the 'editor' or should I say censor, who deleted them? Perhaps we will know more when we see if this comment makes out for public consumption or does it too, get labeled as 'nasty' and deleted?

At least I'll know, but I will find a way to let you all know as well.

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Juanito Ibanez

@Stanley Kubrick wrote: “However, to suggest that the Governor is some sort of gun-control fanatic is simply not accurate.”

NM Governor ‘Michelle my Belle’ Lynn Lujan Grisham is a member of the Democrat Party ... a political party that, by-and-large, has declared WAR on both the 2nd Amendment AND the citizens' Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

Or maybe you missed these:

‘Divisive New Mexico Gun Seizure Bill Signed into Law’

Further estranging the state’s sheriffs and pro-gun advocates, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday signed a new “red flag” bill into law.



‘New Mexico Governor to Sheriffs: Enforce Gun Law or Resign’

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed a red-flag law that will allow state district courts to order the temporary surrender of firearms. She urged sheriffs to resign if they refuse to enforce the law signed Tuesday.


You do realize that if ‘Michelle my Belle’ Grisham was actually pro-2nd Amendment/pro-U.S. Constitution, she has the constitutional power, under Article 4, Section 22 of the Constitution of New Mexico, to Veto such anti-gun rights bills ... don't you?

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Juanito Ibanez

@GHun Smith wrote: “It's obvious that gun stores are an essential business.”

President Trump agrees:

Trump Admin Declares Gun Stores and Manufacturers 'Essential Businesses' Nationwide

Department of Homeland Security releases updated guidelines on firearms sales


Juanito Ibanez

“Confusion, anger on right as gun shops not considered essential”

“Confusion reigns at New Mexico gun stores, where owners say Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s emergency public health order to limit the spread of the new coronavirus has left many wondering whether they’re allowed to stay open or in what capacity.”

That was then; this is now:

Trump Admin Declares Gun Stores and Manufacturers 'Essential Businesses' Nationwide

Department of Homeland Security releases updated guidelines on firearms sales


Your move, Michelle.

Gerry Kelly

Also attached to the memo issued by Homeland Security: “This list is advisory in nature. It is not, nor should it be considered, a federal directive or standard. Additionally, this advisory list is not intended to be the exclusive list of critical infrastructure sectors, workers, and functions that should continue during the COVID-19 response across all jurisdictions," he added. “Individual jurisdictions should add or subtract essential workforce categories based on their own requirements and discretion.”

Jason Englehart

Grisham's Gestapo, the state police should not be allowed to buy ammunition if we are not. I'm ashamed to call myself New Mexican, the governor enjoys armed security and closed our gun stores which means she considers her life more valuable than mine.

Ted Nugent

"I'm ashamed to call myself New Mexican . . ." Then move to another state. Problem solved.

Tiffany Thomas

you should move then.....bye

Carolyn DM

Yeah, because you need ammo like the state police do, and you need security like the Governor has!! LMAO!! Get over yourself already!!

Jason Englehart

As a matter of fact I do. Law enforcement and politicians are not better than us, they work for us not the other way around. I'm also guaranteed that right by the 2nd amendment. Are you implying that these people have a greater right to safety and security than you do?

Wendy Marcus

The political who stated he cannot sleep at night without ammo, needs to be under psychiatric observation, not running for office!

Khal Spencer

He probably listens to The Beatles too much.


Carolyn DM

LMAO!! It's a sad, sad woman on the Right, not a, "he"!!

Carolyn DM

Good point, and it's a woman!

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Emily Koyama

Midway, one of the largest ammo shippers, is out of stock on the most popular calibers, with no option available to backorder. Not sure where you're finding "all the ammo you want".

Also, ammo (and firearms) prices are spiking, so a supply/demand scenario is playing out.

Those who "prepped" for years, making sure they had plenty of food, firearms and other supplies on hand already, are no longer the "nutjob fearmongers", it seems.

Khal Spencer

11% of NYPD is on sick leave, with over 500 testing positive or already sick with COVID.


Cops, given their line of work, are probably worried about apprehending people who already are proving to be bad actors since you can't cuff someone from six feet away. Anyone who thinks personal self defense is irrelevant ought to take pause.

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Khal Spencer

They have been open but they also got a visit from the State Police. Has the Governor and Health Secretary revised the emergency order?

Khal Spencer

Its not just guns. I share the frustration that this list seems arbitrary; just whatever the Health Secretary thought should be on it. Auto parts and repair shops have been put on the essential list. Bike part and repair shops were not and some have been threatened by the State Police or received orders to shut down.

So if you are poor or short on cash or were one of those idealists who went car-free and want to rely on a bicycle you are S-o-L but if you have the resources to drive around in your Chevy Subdivision and it breaks down or you need parts the government blesses you. Go figure.

I suppose that if this goes on or gets worse, someone has to take the Governor to court and see what happens. Its preferable to people stewing over it.

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Khal Spencer

Go have a drink and calm down.

David Cartwright

I hate to tell the governor but her interpretation of her order is itself incomprehensible. On her word, all businesses are shut. Really? Law firms are trying to work from home with minimal essential staff onsite to keep the system running. Same with other professionals. It's not just the gun stores and patrons that have a beef with this kind of governmental ignorance. If she insists on this petulant approach to health, then she will be ignored, and rightfully so.

Wendy Marcus

I am an attorney and law firms are exempted from closing.

Carolyn DM

Thank you to the voice of reason. Some ignorant people just like to whine. It's what makes them feel good about themselves.

Angel Ortiz

While I am not against the 2and ammendment what really bothers me is all the first time buyers of weapons are making purchases out of fear. They are not recieved the necessary training 8education necessary to own a firearm. Our society has really gone to the extreme.

Khal Spencer

Being armed is an enumerated right in both the State and Federal constitutions and in fact the state language is stronger in some ways. You are not required to pass mandatory training to exercise an enumerated right or for that matter, to vote. Poll taxes and literacy tests are unconstitutional.

Besides, all those who demand that citizens be "trained" to exercise their RKBA should tell their boards of education to include firearms training in schools along with the 3 R's. Just as it is tough to write an essay without learning rhetoric, its tough to practice the Four Rules if you never learned them.

The other issue is since the state passed a UBC law, the only way to transfer a gun is through an FFL. So by closing gun shops, the Governor is infringing on a right guaranteed in the NM and US Constitution. Not sure if this qualifies for a lawsuit. I'm not a lawyer.

Aside from those legalities and constitutional issues, Angel, I agree with your main point. If someone has never handled a gun in their life or learned lethal force law, this is a lousy time to be chambering a round for the first time. There is some stuff online but never as real as a day at the range with a qualified instructor.

Juanito Ibanez

“No law shall abridge the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes, but nothing herein shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons. No municipality or county shall regulate, in any way, an incident of the right to keep and bear arms.”

–New Mexico Constitution, Art. II, § 6

Carolyn DM

Oh, FFS!! Who's taking away your guns?!!

Gerry Kelly

In State v. Rivera, the Court of Appeals of New Mexico held that regulations that are reasonably related to the public health, welfare and safety do not violate article II, § 6.1

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Charles Andreoli

But pot shops are essential because getting stoned is so important.

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Robert Bartlett

Your question answers itself. In China the police are now fighting against themselves.

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