A roadside billboard advertisement featuring St. Nick holding an AR-15 rifle has been causing a stir in Northern California.
The Down Range Indoor Training Center in Chico borrowed the iconic image of the jolly fat man emblematic of the Christmas season and retrofitted him with sunglasses, a mean mug and an AR-15.
“We build AR’s for Santa,” the sign facing towards Highway 99 reads.
The range’s co-owner, Steve Dyke, feels the billboard lends the Christmas season a little humor.
“You know, ’tis the season, so we thought it would be a good idea,” Dyke explained to CBS Sacramento. “We actually got a kick out of it – thought it would be good and other people would think it was funny.”
Dyke says Constitution-savvy customers like the image and agree it’s a freedom of speech issue.
“That’s a First Amendment right, Second Amendment right, excuse me, and I believe in it fully,” one customer told CBS.
Others, however, feel the range is tarnishing the otherwise wholesome reputation of Father Christmas, who holds special significance for children this time of year.
“Oooh my goodness…” gasped an after-school teacher. “He looks evil (laughs). That’s kinda scary… As a teacher, I would not want my students to see that. I don’t think you need to put out that as Santa has a gun.”
Another resident said the ad’s message contradicted the holiday spirit.
“The idea of this symbol of joy and giving, holding an assault rifle it’s just so contradictory,” a Chico resident told Action News Now. “You almost don’t know what to do with it.”
Dyke says he understands the ad may offend people who didn’t grow up around guns, but stands firm in his decision.
“We’ve had some people that called in and basically demanded that we take it down, or highly suggested we take it down, but as far as we’re concerned we’ll take it down when we intended to take it down after the holiday season,” Dyke said in a phone interview with Infowars.
Meanwhile a gun range in Chicago displays this Santa billboard… pic.twitter.com/zLREWq9BjI
— sharon kozik (@skozik13) December 21, 2014
Tweet incorrectly states gun range is located in Chicago.
“….[S]ome people get toys and stuff like that for Christmas. Other people, when I was growing up, I got guns from Santa Claus. I mean it’s just a matter of where you’re from,” Dyke argued. “Some people get firearms. So and when Santa needs help putting together an AR rifle, we can definitely help him out with that.”
“For us, these are our First Amendment rights too,” Dyke tells Infowars. “I don’t go around imposing my beliefs on other people. If people don’t like it, they don’t have to look and they don’t have to come to our store, if they don’t want to. That’s their decision.”
The range’s second co-owner, Will Clark, explained the billboard is not only funny, but also serves to display a few proper firearm handling safety rules.
“Santa has got his eye protection on, his fingers off the trigger, the gun’s pointed in a safe direction…” Clark told Action News Now.
Dyke tells Infowars he’s not sure what impact the sign has had on sales, if any, but that several customers have testified to visiting the store to support his efforts after seeing how the corporate media portrayed the story.
“I know that some people are even upset at the media for trying to spin it into something it’s not, but whether that be the case or not, it has blown up into something bigger than we thought,” Dyke said. “I know there’s been a lot of people in that have seen the billboard, that have seen the basic media spin, so it’s obviously gotten us more attention than what we intended.”
“Thank God that we’re still in a country where we have the right to express our opinions and beliefs and not be persecuted for them.”