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'I Think We Are an Essential Business': Some Los Angeles County Gun Stores Remain Open After Sheriff Orders Them to Close

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Burbank, California — 

UPDATE: Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told Fox 11 Tuesday evening his plan to close gun stores have been suspended after county counsel said gun stores can be considered an essential business.


Original story:

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told Fox 11 during an interview that he is ordering county gun stores to close because he has determined they are not one of the essential businesses that can remain open during the Wuhan coronavirus outbreaks in the state.

"We will be closing them, they are not an essential function," Villanueva said. "I’m a supporter of the Second Amendment, I’m a gun owner myself, but now you have the mixture of people that are not formerly gun owners and you have a lot more people at home and anytime you introduce a firearm in a home, from what I understand from CDC studies, it increases fourfold the chance that someone is gonna get shot."

Villanueva said he is also adding 1,300 deputies to patrol and released 1,700 nonviolent inmates from county jails.

That does not mean every single gun store in the county will be closed, only in places where the sheriff's office does not have sole jurisdiction, as evidenced by the city of Burbank. 

There are three gun stores in Burbank on one of its main streets. The city had deemed them as nonessential and ordered them to close on Saturday, but they reversed that decision on Tuesday since gun stores fulfill security needs for the public. 


A Burbank City police officer was making the rounds to ensure they were made aware that they could remain open. One of the gun store owners asked what is stopping Los Angeles County sheriff deputies going around them and force them to close. The officer assured the owner the sheriff's department is unable to enter the city to force them to close down.

"[LASD] have every right to follow the rules as they interrupt in their area. We're different, Glendale's different...We have, as an independent city, our city officials have the right" to set guidelines within the rules that the state of California set in place, the officer explained.

James Janya, one of the owners of Guns Direct, told Townhall it is great for them to continue to do business after being closed down for four days.

"[Being] closed down hurts small businesses, hurts families, it hurts everybody, right? I think we are an essential business. I understand a bar is not an essential business. I think we are. Why do you think people are buying guns right now? Because people are scared, it's not because people just want to walk around with a gun. You see the way people are acting over toilet paper, over food? Can you imagine?" he asked.

"How so is it dangerous?" Janya asked in response to Villanueva's reasoning for closing down gun stores. "That's what I'd ask him. How so is it dangerous? People are just exercising their Second Amendment rights. Doesn't he have a gun on his waist? Isn't that dangerous?"


American Gun Works, which is located in neighboring Glendale, posted on their Facebook page on Tuesday they are also open and provided guidelines how to use social distancing in order to purchase a firearm. 

"Business has been through the roof. People who normally wouldn't buy a gun have bought a gun now because they're scared and they realize the Second Amendment is there for a reason and they're using it," Janya said.

Each of the guns stores that I visited had established social distancing rules, such as forming lines outside with plenty of space in between each person and limiting the number of people inside the store at one time.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued a state-wide mandatory stay-at-home executive order on March 19 to help curb the number of COVID-19 cases. Gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, take-out and delivery restaurants, banks, and laundromats are allowed to remain open. Dine-in restaurants, bars, nightclubs, "entertainment venues," gyms, public events, and convention centers are closed.

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