Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is making it clear that he holds residents in contempt. Concerned about the surge in new gun owners and his belief that they are unable to safely handle a firearm, the sheriff once again reversed his position on Thursday and says that he’ll be forcing the closure of gun stores in his jurisdiction, despite the fact that the county’s counsel issued an opinion late Tuesday saying that the firearm retailers were essential businesses.
KTLA reports that Villanueva is now ignoring the counsel’s opinion, even though he allowed gun stores to open on Wednesday. Instead of listening to the county counsel, Villanueva is seizing on comments from Gov. Gavin Newsom that sheriffs should decide for themselves whether or not gun stores are essential businesses. As far as the sheriff’s concerned, that’s the green light to declare gun stores in the county can’t sell to civilians, though oddly enough Villanueva says there are some exemptions.
In issuing his closure order Thursday, Villanueva cited the governor’s executive order on statewide closures during the crisis as stipulating gun stores are not essential. However, the order does not explicitly mention those businesses.
Villanuneva said the shops may no longer sell to the general public but may still supply security guard companies. Anyone who already already has purchased a gun and possess a valid safety certificate can pick up their firearms, he said in a statement.
The fact that Sheriff Villanueva is allowing security firm employees to acquire firearms and ammunition, while denying the average citizen the ability to do so, is unconscionable. Villanueva’s position, whether he acknowledges it or not, is that if you can afford to outsource your personal protection to a private company, you’re in good shape. If, however, protecting your family is a DIY affair, you’re out of luck, unless you had the foresight to purchase a firearm and ammunition before things started to go sideways.
It is important to note that Villanueva’s order applies only to his jurisdiction; the unincorporated portions of Los Angeles County and 42 independent cities that contract with the sheriff’s office to provide law enforcement. As KTLA points out, the city of Los Angeles has, so far anyway, not attempted to force any gun stores to close. All Villanueva is really doing is sending county residents to the closest gun store that’s still open. I’m not sure what sort of positive impact that could have on coronavirus transmission rates, but I know what kind of economic impact it will have on the stores in his jurisdiction, and it won’t be good.
There are plenty of steps that Sheriff Villanueva could take if he was truly interested in balancing the constitutional rights of his constituents with the public safety needs of coronavirus mitigation, but he’s not doing any of them. Instead, he’s coming down squarely on the side of making it as hard as possible for folks to exercise their Second Amendment rights, and he’s doing so at a time when more of his constituents than ever before are trying to exercise those rights. He’s not acting like a sheriff, he’s acting like an overprotective parent and treating the residents of Los Angeles County as if they are children who can’t be trusted to make a decision for themselves about owning a firearm.