For the first time since March, gun stores in Ventura County, California and several other jurisdictions across the state were allowed to open for business on Friday, as California moved into “phase two” of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s phased reopening of the economy and easing of social distancing measures.
In Ventura County, local officials declared an end to the whole idea of “essential” vs. “nonessential” businesses, and wrote in a court filing that the move allows gun stores to reopen along with every other business in the city, provided they can meet the social distancing guidelines.
Because neither the State Order nor the May 7 Order expressly mentions gun stores, defendants County of Ventura, Sheriff William Ayub and Robert Levin, the Ventura County Health Officer, have provided the following specific guidance: “With the elimination of the essential business model in the local health order, and reliance on the State health order model for critical infrastructure, the Sheriff and local health officer have determined that the gun stores may fully open to the public provided they implement and register site-specific prevention plans as described
That’s good news for Ventura County gun stores, or at least the ones that can comply with the social distancing mandates still in place. Gov. Newsom hasn’t declared gun stores essential or non-essential businesses, and instead is leaving up to localities to decide if they want to order gun stores closed. That’s led to multiple lawsuits filed in federal court in both the southern and northern federal districts, and those legal fights will still be litigated regardless of where the state’s reopening stands. While the court fight continues, however, retail sales can begin again, at least in theory, for many gun store owners.
However, the firearms retailers are still going to be operating under state and local guidelines, which means things aren’t going back to normal yet. In fact, under Newsom’s current guidelines, “non-essential” retailers can only offer curbside services. That may be difficult for some guns stores that haven’t been deemed essential , though the ATF has issued a rule to federal firearms licensees that they can now conduct business outside, as long as they remain on their property while they do so.
At the moment, there are two sets of rules for gun stores in the state. Those in counties that have deemed them essential are open for business at a time when gun sales are soaring, and those located in places Santa Clara County or the city of San Jose have been told they must remain closed, or can only operate curbside services. Those local gun store closures aren’t stopping many people from buying guns, apparently, because the data shows that gun sales are soaring in those counties where stores are open.
The people most affected by these gun store closures are the gun store owners and employees, many of whom are in real danger of going out of business entirely. That would suit the local politicians just fine, frankly. Many of the same counties refusing to let gun stores open are the same ones that repeatedly attempt to push the envelope with local gun control ordinances that are challenged in court. In fact, there’s a case out of San Jose that the Supreme Court could take as early as Monday that challenges the city’s seizure of a woman’s firearms after a mental health hold on her husband. Go read the petition to the Court by attorneys for Lori Rodriguez, but be prepared for your blood pressure to skyrocket as you ingest the details of her case.
So no, I don’t think the mayor of San Jose would shed a tear if all of the gun stores in his city were forced out of business, and that goes for officials in dozens of towns and cities throughout the state. As California eases slowly into its reopening, gun owners and gun store owners need to be on the lookout for any mandates that may be impossible or unreasonable for gun stores to meet. I wouldn’t put it past some of these anti-gun officials to try to pass of a gun store ban as a thinly disguised public health order.