By: José Niño
A New Mexico pawn shop has stayed open in complete disregard of the state’s shutdown order, which mandates the closure of all so-called “non-essential” businesses.
For the terrible crime of trying to keep its doors open and earn a living, Diane Rowe, owner of Papa’s Pawn & Gun, has been fined $60,000 and told to appear in court. Rowe is facing fines after state police warned her to close her store.
According to an April press release from state police, the New Mexico Department of Health is authorized to carry out emergency public health orders by levying a daily fine of $5,000 on the third or subsequent warning.
Law enforcement revealed that the pawn shop was given a cease-and-desist order on April 14 and a citation to appear before court after the store continued to stay open.
The Governor’s Office sent a copy of the letter from the Department of Health to The New Mexican. According to the letter, Rowe was assessed a fine of $60,000 for staying open for 12 days or longer after being directed to close.
Rowe has contested the penalty. She believes the fine should have been issued after the third warning. She asserted that she only received two warnings before the government slapped a stiff penalty on her for the days the store stayed open before the citation.
Rowe views the $60,000 penalty as “clearly just retaliation” for “standing up for my 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 took several precautions, such as maintaining social distancing policies and limiting the number of people who could be in the store at any given time.
Rowe was a part of a small group of store owners in the town of Grants, New Mexico who stayed open after the city’s mayor, Martin “Modey” Hicks, instructed city employees to go back to work and encouraged businesses to open up their doors despite the statewide restrictions in place.
The Republican Party of New Mexico criticized the fine levied on Rowe in a recent statement, declaring that it is “a violation of Rowe’s civil rights and constitutional rights and another unjust action against businesses trying to survive.”
José Niño is a Venezuelan American freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. Sign up for his mailing list here. Contact him via Facebook, Twitter, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get his e-book, The 10 Myths of Gun Control, here.