The billboard on the side of Highway 99 in Chico, California, is hard to miss.
Over a black background, it shows a quite stern-looking Santa donning dark glasses. And rather than holding a sack of presents for kids who've been nice instead of naughty, St. Nick is brandishing some serious firepower.
The caption for the gun range's ad? “We build AR’s for Santa.”
“And you know, ’tis the season, so we thought it would be a good idea,” Steve Dyke, coowner of Down Range Indoor Training Center in Chico, told KOVR-TV. “We’re right next to the freeway, so we have to do something to catch people’s eye,” he added.
As you might imagine, not everyone is pleased that Santa is packing.
"The idea of this symbol of joy and giving holding an assault rifle it's just so contradictory," Tom Imhoff told KHSL-TV. "You almost don't know what to do with it."
A mother told the station she's concerned about how she'd explain the billboard to her child.
"I just don't think I would like my son to see Santa holding a gun and having to explain to him that's usually not what's Santa's holding...it's presents," Brenna Main noted.
Dyke, who has no plans to take down the billboard, said he figured folks would see the humor in it.
“Obviously, Santa Claus is kind of synonymous with Christmas,” he told KOVR, adding that he figured others would get "a kick out of it" and "think it was funny.”
It's no problem for customer Bob Marshall, who said it's all about First Amendment and Second Amendment rights. "I believe in it fully," he told KOVR.
After-school teacher Sara Welday, however, said this Santa looked "evil" and the billboard is "scary."
“As a teacher, I would not want my students to see that," she added to KOVR. "I don’t think you need to put out that as Santa has a gun.”
[sharequote align="center"]"...when I was growing up, I got guns from Santa Claus."[/sharequote]
But for Dyke, it's a matter of perspective.
“Some people get toys and stuff like that for Christmas," he told KOVR. "[W]hen I was growing up, I got guns from Santa Claus."
While the billboard will come down eventually, it won't be the last like it at the gun range, KHSL said; it's planning another featuring the Easter bunny next year — and perhaps Cupid for Valentine's Day.