BUTTE COUNTY (CBS13) – A gun range billboard arming Santa with a weapon is turning heads in one Butte County town.

“And you know, ’tis the season, so we thought it would be a good idea,” said Steve Dyke, co-owner of Down Range Indoor Training Center. Dyke says like it or not, the Santa ad is staying up.

This is a side of Santa you don’t normally see. But here he is, loaded up. On the side of Highway 99, it’s a billboard that’s bound to raise some eyebrows.

“We’re right next to the freeway, so we have to do something to catch people’s eye,” said Dyke.

This Old Saint Nick doesn’t look so jolly. There’s no smile, he has on sunglasses, and he’s armed, next to the tagline: “We build AR’s for Santa.”

Steve says it’s all in good fun.

“Obviously, Santa Claus is synonymous with Christmas,” said Dyke. “We actually thought got a kick out of it — thought it would be good and other people would think it was funny.”

There have been a few complaints, but customers like Bob Marshall don’t see the problem.

“That’s a first amendment right, second amendment right, excuse me, and I believe in it fully,” said Bob.

“Oooh my goodness…” said Sara Welday.

We showed the ad to Welday, an after-school teacher, who thought it was over the top.

“He looks evil (laughs). That’s kinda scary,” she said. “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.”

We called the city of Chico and found out billboards are banned within city limits. However, that doesn’t apply to the gun range since it’s technically outside town.

And in general, business owners have lots of leeway from prior court cases and state law when it comes to free speech and billboards.

“Well, you know, some 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,” he said.

And if he wanted to get noticed, the gun-toting Santa ad is a success.

Dyke says he’s gotten a lot of feedback, and almost all of it has been positive.

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