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Gun store operator runs for sheriff in St. Louis County, denies militia connection

Dead on Arms owner Chad Walsh was forced to temporarily close his indoor shooting range last year during the initial COVID-19 lockdown.

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Dead On Arms owner Chad Walsh works on an AR-15 firearm behind one of the counters at his shop earlier this year. Walsh said this week he will run for sheriff of St. Louis County. (File / News Tribune)
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Last spring, Chad Walsh relented to law enforcement pressure and temporarily closed his commercial indoor shooting range during the pandemic.

One year later, the 44-year-old gun shop owner is running to become sheriff of St. Louis County in the 2022 midterm election.

"I f I had to pick between Dead on Arms and getting the opportunity to be sheriff, I would pick the opportunity to bring positive change to law enforcement," Walsh told the News Tribune.

Walsh announced his run on both Facebook and a fundraising website, where he recounts having joined the U.S. Army out of Hermantown High School, and serving overseas as a military police officer.

The News Tribune confirmed basic facts of his service record, and confronted him about his company logo — a snake in front of the Roman numeral three surrounded by 13 stars. The numeral and stars are also featured in the logo for the Three Percenters, which the Anti-Defamation League describes as an American militia movement sometimes made up of people not associated with any group.

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"Three percent of colonists when we fought the British stood up and fought for us," Walsh said.

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Dead on Arms logo

He denied involvement in the Three Percenters, explaining in a roundabout way that he shares the Revolutionary War-era meaning behind the numeral in the logo he created.

"We're not associated with any group," Walsh said. "We have a huge shooting community up here; we welcome everybody."

Longtime small-business owners, Walsh and his wife, Laura, share six children and started Dead on Arms in 2017 , making and selling guns 15 miles from downtown Duluth on U.S. Highway 2 in rural St. Louis County.

Sheriff Ross Litman did not respond for comment about the 2022 election.

Upon his reinstallation in 2019 for a fifth term, Litman indicated he would likely step down after this latest term, which expires January 2023. He has worked in the Sheriff’s Office for almost 30 years, serving as the county’s chief law enforcement officer for the past 19 years.

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Recently, Walsh joined the Moose Lake Police Department in Carlton County as a law enforcement officer.

"Even though I'm a business owner in northern Minnesota, my passion is about civil service," he said. "I really enjoy being a police officer. It's not always about arresting people — that is a small, small percentage of the job. You're out there to assist and serve the citizens."

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Dead on Arms owner Chad Walsh talks about his gun shop and shooting range business in rural Cloquet. (Clint Austin / 2019 file / News Tribune)

Last April, Walsh made news early in the statewide pandemic lockdown, with the Sheriff's Office placing a call to say operating an indoor shooting range was in violation of Gov. Tim Walz’s "Stay at Home" order. Walsh closed the range rather than face the state attorney's office . He said it happened again in the fall, but adds he's not running on any sort of grudge.

"They tried to make my range fit their criteria," he said.

Walsh insisted he's not political and wouldn't bring politics into the office. He described a gap between the people and policing, and said, with his "well-rounded" background, he'd be able to bridge the gap.

"I'm not a politician," he said. "As sheriff you represent every citizen in the county."

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This story was updated at 6:35 a.m. March 19 to correct Walsh's first name. It was originally posted at 7:03 p.m. March 18.

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