It Was Already Hard to Buy a Gun in L.A. County. COVID-19 and the Sheriff Have Made It Even More Difficult.

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Posted: Mar 27, 2020 8:30 AM

Los Angeles County, Calif. — It's no secret that it's not simple to legally buy a gun in California, let alone Los Angeles County, and with the ongoing Wuhan coronavirus outbreaks in the state, first-time buyers and enthusiasts alike have to jump through more hoops to get firearms and ammunition.

In addition to having to follow social distancing protocols, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva was able to reissue his order on Thursday for gun stores to close down to the general public, with Gov. Gavin Newsom's (D) blessing, with slight changes. Gun stores will be allowed to sell ammunition to security guard companies and if someone bought a firearm and are still in the 10-day waiting period, they are able to pick it up when it's ready.

In short, you would have had a better experience and get more done in a day at your local DMV pre-coronavirus.

At the Ammo Brothers location in Cerritos, Emmanuel Lopez, a first-time gun buyer, told Townhall he had been waiting to buy a firearm since 6:00 a.m. and had only completed the written safety test. Lopez said he was aware of the strict gun laws California has and the uncertainty of what the next day could bring is what prompted him to get a gun.

The only people that were allowed in the store, a few at a time, were those who had an appointment.

Rolling with the punches, Lopez said the process was "easy" and expressed hope he'd be able to buy a gun on Thursday. He disagreed with Villanueva's order because "you never know what's going to happen down the road in two to three weeks" and closing down gun shops will leave people without the ability to protect themselves.

"I would tell [Villanueva] let the people get what they need to protect themselves and they shouldn't shut them down because it is essential having a firearm and ammunition" at a time like this, Lopez said.

"If they have food places open, then they should have gun stores open because it is essential. They should close down fast food first before gun stores," one woman, another first-time buyer, said.

L.A. County Sheriff deputies did stop by Ammo Bros. while I was there, but they seemed to be unaware of Villanueva's press release that was sent out only hours before as they were not at the store to close it down.

"CA law puts heavy burdens on us for processing all your transactions and currently it takes over a month to hire new employees due to the need to have a certificate of eligibility," a sign posted on their door explained.

Sign posted on the door of Ammo Brothers. Credit: Julio Rosas

At Turner's Outdoorsman in nearby Norwalk, the store was also only taking appointments for guns that were already purchased, all regular business has been suspended. As of Thursday, they were running behind schedule and ordered customers to wait in their cars because one worker said police officers were consistently stopping by to ensure they were adhering to social distancing procedures. No one was allowed to wait by the door and customers were told to wait in their cars for a phone call to then be allowed inside.

The next available day anyone is able to make an appointment to buy a gun at that location is next week on Tuesday.

Signs posted at Turner's Outdoorsman. Credit: Julio Rosas

At Marshall Security Training Academy & Range in Compton, manager Haig told Townhall their business has been very busy, often with first-time gun buyers who were shocked at the strict gun laws that are in place. 

"A lot of them didn't expect to be waiting 10 days, they expect to walk out of here with a gun that same day or even ammunition," he said.

That particular establishment has a large customer base that includes law enforcement and security guards, along with the general public. Haig said he understands both sides of closing guns stores to the general public.

"It's tough because I think part of it is the sheer panic of people going and buying guns right now. I think to kind of stave some of that panic, you have to do something like that. As long as it's a temporary closure and people can still get access to whatever they need, I understand that. But it's kind of like us running out of toilet paper, you know, everybody just hit the stores and now you can only buy two at a time. So I think there has to be a happy medium just to stop people from panicking," he explained.

Social distancing lines at LAX Ammo. Credit: Julio Rosas

It is important to note Villanueva's order only applies to stores that are in unincorporated areas and cities that have contracts with the sheriff's department. The city of Burbank reversed their order to close down gun stores on Tuesday after they determined gun shops can be considered an essential business.

In San Diego County, Sheriff Bill Gore said he believes gun stores should remain open because they ensure the public "complies with the very stringent gun purchasing laws" and if they go out of business, there will be a surge in black market gun purchases during a time of "heightened concern."