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Santa shows up on billboard as spokesman for gun range

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Posted at 4:14 PM, Dec 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-19 16:14:03-05

CHICO, CA -- It's about that time for Santa to start packing up his sleigh for Christmas, but in Butte County, California, he's packing heat.

At least that's what a billboard along Highway 99 for a gun range shows him doing -- and it's bound to turn some heads.

This old Saint Nick sure doesn't look so jolly.

There's no smile, he has on sunglasses, and he's armed, with the tagline: "We build AR's for Santa."

The owner said they received a lot of feedback, and almost all of it has been positive.

An after-school teacher thought it was over the top, but the owner said it's all in good fun.

"As a teacher, I would not want my students to see that,” said Sara Welday. “I don't think you need to put out that as Santa has a gun."

“Well, you know, some people get toys and stuff like that for Christmas,” said Steve Dyke, co-owner, Down Range. “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.

The city of Chico says billboards are banned within city limits. But that doesn't apply here since the billboard is 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.