After hours of pushback from residents, gun stores, Second Amendment organizations, and even the county attorney, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva reversed course early Wednesday morning and now says his office is suspending attempts to force firearm retailers to lock their doors.
Villaneuva announced the move on social media, saying it will be up to Gov. Gavin Newsom to determine what is, and isn’t, an essential business.
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 claimed on Tuesday that while he was a Second Amendment supporter, the idea of all these new gun owners cooped up in their homes bothered him. Concerned about accidents involving firearms or a rise in homicide by these new gun owners, the sheriff said all gun stores must close.
One man’s opinion can’t supersede the Constitutional rights of 10-million people, and late Tuesday night gun owners and Second Amendment supporters got a boost from an unexpected source.
Los Angeles, the nation’s largest county with 10 million residents, enacted a stay-at-home order last week that required all nonessential businesses to close to slow the spread of the virus.
The county order — and an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom — did not specifically mention gun shops, prompting the Los Angeles County counsel’s office to issue a statement late Tuesday saying it has “opined that gun stores qualify as essential businesses.”
With that ruling, Villanueva backed off, and said he’s suspending enforcement of the non-essential business closures until he hears from the governor.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva told FOX 11 reporter Bill Melugin that county counsel Mary Wickham issued an opinion that gun stores can be classified as essential businesses under the Governor’s statewide executive order.
Up until the legal opinion, Villanueva said a majority of gun shops were complying with his order to close down.
The Sheriff maintained that he believes gun stores should not be open to the general public right now because he feels there are too many first time buyers making panic purchases of guns they don’t know how to operate and they aren’t familiar with California’s strict laws.
“You can’t shoot a virus,” Villanueva said.
Nobody’s buying a gun to shoot a virus. They’re buying firearms, many for the first time in their lives, because they’re concerned about what happens when the LAPD or the LA County Sheriff’s Office have dozens or hundreds of officers and deputies quarantined or out sick with the coronavirus. They’re concerned about a fraying of the public safety net, and it’s not an unreasonable fear, though I hope ultimately it is unwarranted.
Villanueva hasn’t seen the light, but he’s clearly felt the heat, and his suspension of the gun store closures is good news for Los Angelenos.