Facing a lawsuit over his controversial decision to shutter gun stores amid the coronavirus pandemic, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has now changed his mind, citing a federal ruling that gun stores are considered “essential.”
Last week, the sheriff insisted gun stores had to be closed
“Gun shops, strip clubs, night clubs are non-essential businesses. We are trying to get them to close their doors,” he said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“If they don’t close their doors, they will be cited.”
But Monday night, that changed.
“On March 28, 2020, the United States Department of Homeland Security issued an Advisory Memorandum in regard to Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers during COVID-19 response. Although explicitly advisory in nature, nonetheless the federal memorandum is persuasive given its national scope,” Villanueva said in a statement posted to Twitter.
The guidance he was referring to said that “[w]orkers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges” are considered part of the “essential critical infrastructure workforce,” according to Fox News.
“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,” Villanueva said.
“Based on this 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,” the statement added.
However, he said the department “will investigate reports of improper health practices such as poor sanitation or failure to maintain social distancing at all businesses; and forward detailed reports of unlawful health conditions to the District Attorney for their review and consideration.”
“Regardless of whether a business sells groceries, gasoline, firearms, or any other product or service, we encourage them to abide by all health and safety measures in place,” Villanueva concluded.
— Alex Villanueva (@LACoSheriff) March 31, 2020
Villanueva had gone back and forth last week over the closures, saying on Tuesday he would close gun stores before changing his mind and delaying that action.
Then on Thursday, he decided they should close.
The National Rifle Association immediately responded with a lawsuit, according to Fox.
“Municipalities who target lawful gun stores for closure aren’t promoting safety — by weaponizing their politics to disarm you and your loved ones, these shameless partisans are recklessly promoting a gun-control agenda that suffocates your self-defense rights when you need them most,” Jason Ouimet, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement Friday.
“NRA members recognize these unlawful power-grabs for what they are,” he said.
“I think @realDonaldTrump just did something fantastic with the guidance that he issued, and we are already seeing results … That gun stores are essential. That people’s right to self-defense is essential. I can’t thank President Trump enough for issuing such strong guidance.“ pic.twitter.com/stbAkdIvPL
— NRA (@NRA) March 31, 2020
Villanueva had said he never intended an assault on the Second Amendment.
“It’s not an issue of banning the sales of guns, which the Second Amendment is about … the problem is there was a little bit of lack of inclusive planning process in the development of the local order from health officer,” he said last week, according to the Times.
“That had created some what of a conflict with order coming from the Governor’s office that were more broad-stroked. We have identified a loophole that needs to be addressed.”
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