Los Angeles gun stores were allowed to remain open Tuesday despite city and state coronavirus lockdown mandates after the LA County counsel contradicted an order from the local sheriff’s office.
Los Angeles County Counsel Mary Wickham issued a statement late Tuesday saying her office had “opined that gun stores qualify as essential businesses,” The Associated Press reported.
Wickham’s directive came only hours after Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a news conference that he was deploying 1,300 deputies to patrol the streets to enforce local and state executive restrictions prohibiting public gatherings to slow the spread of coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, CBS affiliate KCAL reported.
Villanueva’s office early Wednesday morning announced that it had suspended its previous order.
“Based on the legal advisement from LA County Council, I have suspended efforts to seek voluntary compliance from LA County firearm retailers,” Villanueva said in a statement on Facebook.
“We are waiting for further information from CA Gov. Gavin Newsom to clarify what qualifies as a non-essential business. My primary concern remains the safety of all Los Angeles County residents.”
LA County Sheriff’s Dept. Enforcement efforts to close non-essential businesses have been suspended. CA Gov. Gavin Newsom to determine what qualifies as a non-essential business. Please click to view story https://t.co/HrRD8VKcUG
— Alex Villanueva (@LACoSheriff) March 25, 2020
Villanueva said on Tuesday that gun shops were among the businesses the city deemed “non-essential.”
“There are hundreds of businesses which, through no fault of their own, do not fall under the governor’s definition of critical infrastructure,” Villanueva said in a statement. “As a result, I have instructed my deputies to enforce closures of businesses which have disregarded the governor’s order.”
The executive director of Gun Owners of California, Sam Paredes, said Tuesday his organization was considering legal action to overturn Villanueva’s decision to shut down businesses that sell firearms.
“There are far more important things that the sheriff can be doing than sending uniformed officers to gun stores telling them they’re going to be shut down by force,” Paredes told the AP. “We’ve got lots of stories from people who said, ‘I’d never thought I’d own a firearm, and now I want them more than anything in the world.'”
Villanueva previously said that a “loophole” had allowed gun stores to remain open, attracting long lines of customers. Villanueva said the order was meant to keep open gun and ammunition businesses that support police departments and other security organizations.
The outbreak of COVID-19 cases has sparked a surge in guns and ammunition sales across the country.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said Tuesday that gun shops provide a “valuable public service” and would be allowed to remain open, even though they are not included in the state government’s list of “essential businesses.”
Many California residents are likely relived to hear they’ll still be able to purchase a firearm from local shops.
“I decided to buy a gun for protection,” Irene Zamorano, a South Pasadena resident, told KCAL. “I have a family — quite a large family and these uncertain times, you just never know. [The] responsible thing to do is be prepared.”