Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who also serves as the city’s director of emergency operations during a crisis, has reversed a city-wide effort to close gun stores after the county’s top attorney disputed the move in a legal opinion.
In a Twitter post early Wednesday morning, Villanueva announced that the sheriff’s department would halt efforts to close gun stores, and shared a video from Fox News revealing the decision was made after the county’s attorney intervened.
“Tonight the sheriff told me in a phone call that he is stopping, halting all efforts to enforce the closure of any local guns stores, at least for now,” reporter Bill Mulligan said in the video. “He says that’s because the county’s top lawyer put out a legal opinion that she believes gun stores are essential businesses and should remain open.”
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 has appealed to California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, for guidance. The sheriff previously argued gun stores should close because they weren’t “essential” to the city, reports The Los Angeles Times.
“Gun shops, strip clubs, night clubs are nonessential businesses. We are trying to get them to close their doors,” said Villanueva, who clarified that the department would not arrest business owners for defying the order to close. “If they don’t close their doors, they will be cited.”
The sheriff told the news agency that the city was receiving many complaints about gun shops in particular: “We have received complaints from particular businesses that have not been adhering to the social distancing. Chief among them gunshops, nightclubs, bars, and strip clubs, so we have fanned out and are making sure these business are complying.”
In an interview with Fox News, Villanueva said he was a Second Amendment supporter, but was concerned about an influx of first-time buyers at gun stores.
“I’m a supporter of the 2nd amendment, I’m a gun owner myself, but now you have the mixture of people that are not formerly gun owners,” said the sheriff, reports the news agency. “You have a lot more people at home and anytime you introduce a firearm in a home, from what I understand from CDC studies, it increases fourfold the chance that someone is gonna get shot.”
One-hundred miles south of the city, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore has reached the opposite conclusion, and argued Tuesday that keeping gun shops open would prevent people from seeking them through illegal means.
“The Sheriff’s Department recognizes the importance of licensed firearm retailers given the heightened concern for public safety. Licensed firearm retailers provide a valuable public service by conducting registrations, backgrounds and ensuring waiting periods are complied with,” said the sheriff’s Tuesday press release.
“We do not want to drive lawful sales of firearms to an underground or off the books black market during these difficult times,” said the document.