Gun shops to stay open in Los Angeles amid coronavirus, sheriff says hours after calling them 'nonessential'

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva Tuesday said gun shops in the county can remain open just hours after he called them “nonessential” under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s "Safer at Home" coronavirus order and said they would be cited if they didn’t close.

Villanueva said L.A. County Counsel Mary Wickham intervened with an opinion that gun stores could be classified as essential, according to FOX LA.

Earlier Tuesday the sheriff said, “Gun shops, strip clubs, night clubs are nonessential businesses. We are trying to get them to close their doors."

Coronavirus fueling gun store sales but California sheriff says shops are 'not an essential,' orders closures

The earlier order to close received a substantial backlash, including from the Gun Owners of California, a gun rights organization that said it was considering a legal challenge before the reversal.

“Those that are involved in the security business that still need to do their business ... we want to make sure they're properly equipped," Villanueva said, according to KABC-TV. "However that is not a license for everyone to do panic gun buying and rushing to stores, which is now what we're seeing. That violates the issue of social distancing."

Gun sales have ramped up across the country as concern grows about the pandemic but Villanueva said he has safety concerns about panic buying by first-time gun owners, adding “you can’t shoot a virus,” FOX LA reported.

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San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said gun shops in San Diego County won’t be ordered to close because they provide a “valuable public service,” KNSD-TV reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.