The mayor of Clovis, California has a message to Gov. Gavin Newsom: hands off our gun stores. In a new letter to Newsom, Mayor Drew Bessinger says that a statewide order closing gun stores would “embolden criminals and frighten an already stressed citizenry,” and urges the governor to reject calls for a statewide shutdown of firearms retailers coming from lawmakers like Assemblyman Miguel Santiago.
In his one-page letter, Bessinger expressed concern about the number of prisoners released from Fresno County jail under a state Judicial Council mandate. Hundreds have either been cut loose or will be released because of the Judicial Council’s $0 bail order for many offenses.
“These releases, coupled with the recent releases from California State Prison, will dramatically increase the potential that our citizens will be victimized by these criminals,” Bessinger wrote. “These people have already shown an inability to live amongst their fellow citizens in a peaceful and lawful manner.
“Taking our citizens’ right to purchase firearms and ammunition under the guise of an emergency order would embolden criminals and frighten an already stressed citizenry,” Bessinger said.
Bessinger, who’s also the chief of police for Fresno Yosemite International Airport, says the city has been following the current COVID-19 emergency orders, but adds he has an “ethical and moral responsibility to oppose any order that endangered the citizens” he is sworn to protect.
During a Wednesday press conference, Newsom was asked about Santiago’s push to close gun stores, but reiterated that the decision to do so remain in the hands of local sheriffs and law enforcement. That patchwork approach has enabled some jurisdictions in southern California and the San Francisco area to order stores closed, though the closures have been met with lawsuits filed by a coalition of Second Amendment organizations including the National Rifle Association, Second Amendment Foundation, and the Firearms Policy Council.
In Clovis and the surrounding Fresno County area, gun stores remain open, and Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims told local website GV Wire that she has no plans to tell gun shops to shut down.
“I appreciate the governor deferring to local control on making these decisions. I believe businesses that sell weapons and ammunition to qualified community members are essential service businesses,” Mims told GV Wire.
Thankfully, Sheriff Mims’ attitude is shared by most sheriffs across the state, but unfortunately several judges have disagreed. Earlier this week a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that the city’s designation of gun stores as “non-essential” doesn’t violate the Second Amendment rights of city residents, and on April 6th a federal judge ruled that Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva could order gun shops to close. Another U.S. District judge issued a similar ruling upholding the closure of gun stores in Ventura County.
For the time being, the right to acquire a firearm for self-defense in California is contingent on what county you live in. I suppose that, practically speaking, that’s slightly better than a statewide shutdown of gun stores, but it still leaves millions of Americans without the ability to acquire a firearm in order to exercise their right to keep and bear it.