A pawn shop and gun store in northwestern New Mexico that remained open, albeit with social distancing measures in place, despite Gov. Michelle Lujan’s order for gun stores to close has been hit with $60,000 in fines from the state Department of Health.
Papas Pawn and Guns owner Diane Rowe acknowledges she remained open, but says the fines shouldn’t be nearly as high as what the state has imposed, and believes she’s being targeted for standing up for her rights.
“This is about our small businesses being just picked off,” Rowe said. “I am getting a hold of lawyers now and trying to figure out what we’re gonna do. I would like to be able to stay open. It’s my constitutional right to be able to earn a living.”
Rowe said the store has been “very careful,” allowing only two customers in at a time and making sure that people stand 6 feet apart from one another.
She was part of a small resistance by owners of stores that have remained open or opened Monday in Grants after the city’s mayor, Martin “Modey” Hicks, ordered city employees back to work and encouraged businesses there to reopen in defiance of public health restrictions shutting them down.
Hicks was ordered Thursday by the New Mexico Supreme Court to comply with the health orders and submit a written response to the court.
We covered the situation in Grants, New Mexico here at Bearing Arms a few days ago when the mayor decided he was going to allow businesses in the Cibola County community to re-open despite the governor’s order. While some counties in the northwestern part of the state have been hit hard by the coronavirus, Cibola County has only reported 52 cases as of May 1st. Mayor Hicks said the fact that the county has been able to manage the pandemic, coupled with the economic devastation wrought by the stay-at-home order by Grisham, was what compelled him to declare the town was re-open for business.
Gov. Grisham revised her stay-at-home order on April 30th to allow gun shops across the state to re-open on Friday, May 1st, as long as they operate by appointment only. Unfortunately for Rowe, the revised orders don’t include Cibola County.
It also does not apply to McKinley and San Juan counties. The three areas are COVID-19 hot spots in New Mexico, and Lujan Grisham said during a Thursday address that she would not lift restrictions in those areas because of the explosion of virus cases there.
The Republican Party of New Mexico decried the substantial fine in a statement Friday as “a violation of Rowe’s civil rights and constitutional rights and another unjust action against businesses trying to survive.”
There hasn’t been an explosion of cases in Cibola County, though the same can’t be said for McKinley and San Juan counties. Those two counties account for nearly half of the state’s confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths, and on Friday Grisham took the unprecedented step of closing the roads in and out of the county seat of McKinley County.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham invoked the state’s Riot Control Act on Friday to essentially lock down the city of Gallup after its mayor requested that she do so on Thursday. Under the act, all roads leading into Gallup are now closed off “to mitigate the uninhibited spread of COVID-19 in that city.”
“Effective at 12 p.m., May 1, all roads into Gallup are closed. Businesses in the city of Gallup will close from 5 p.m. through 8 a.m. Vehicles may only have a maximum of two individuals. Residents of the city should remain at home except for emergency outings and those essential for health, safety and welfare,” Grisham’s office said in a press release.
Gallup’s outbreak is severe, while Grant’s outbreak has not been. Cibola County’s had far fewer cases than either San Juan or McKinley County, but it is home not only to a mayor that’s defied the governor’s order, it’s also the home of Sheriff Tony Mace, who’s also been a thorn in the side of the governor for years. In fact, it was Mace who helped spearhead the opposition to the universal background check and red flag laws pushed by Grisham, and the sheriff’s been a vocal proponent of the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement as well.
From a health standpoint, it doesn’t make much sense to include Cibola County in the list of places that remain on lockdown. If Gov. Grisham is playing politics, however, it makes perfect sense to target one of the most disobedient jurisdictions in the state. Rowe may be right in thinking that the heavy fines handed down to her business have more to do with retaliation than mitigation of the coronavirus.