California sheriff reverses order closing gun stores

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced he will no longer order that gun stores be temporarily closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

For the second time, he said that gun stores could reopen after ordering them to close twice since last Tuesday. He had previously deemed them “nonessential," saying that panic buying produced long lines and could be a safety hazard for the public.

Villanueva said the most recent decision stems from an Advisory Memorandum issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Saturday that said workers supporting the firearms and ammunition industry were "included in the list of essential critical infrastructure workers."

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“Although explicitly advisory in nature, nonetheless the federal memorandum is persuasive given the national scope. Included in the list of essential critical infrastructure workers are workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges," he announced.

“Based on further input by the federal government, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not order or recommend closure of businesses that sell or repair firearms or sell ammunition.”

Last week, Villanueva said that gun and ammunition stores are not considered essential businesses and would close to the general public in compliance with L.A. County's "Safer at Home Order for Control of COVID-19."

Guns are advertised for sale at a gun shop Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Culver City, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Guns are advertised for sale at a gun shop Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Culver City, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

“During the closure, they shall be permitted to sell ammunition to security guard companies,” said Villanueva. “Also, I am making an exception for those who have already lawfully purchased a firearm, possess a valid California Firearms Safety certificate and simply need to take possession of their firearm.”

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He issued the order despite a county legal counsel’s finding that the stores are essential businesses that should remain open.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has previously said that each of the state’s 58 counties can decide for themselves whether to list firearms dealers as nonessential businesses that should be subject to closure while the state seeks to limit the spread of COVID-19.

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The sheriff's department was sued by the NRA and three other groups for that decision on Friday, which they argued "shutters the Constitutional right to those arms," according to Los Angeles's KTLA.

The Associated Press contributed to this report