Los Angeles sheriff backs off trying to close gun shops amid coronavirus outbreak

That was fast.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff who announced that gun stores—like strip clubs—were nonessential businesses and needed to close amid the coronavirus outbreak put the idea back in his holster after public backlash.

Alex Villanueva, the sheriff, told the Los Angeles Times that deputies would not “haul people off to jail” under the orders, but said if gun stores don’t close their doors, they “will be cited.”

He changed his tune on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the announcement.

He wrote on Twitter that his department’s effort to close these businesses has “been suspended.” He said that he will wait on Gov. Gavin Newsom to determine what businesses in his county will be closed.

He made his announcement on a tweet linking out to a Fox 11 report where he said that the county’s “top lawyer” came out against the move and called gun stores “essential businesses.”

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The embarrassing reversal is a win for state guns rights groups that threatened a lawsuit. There also seems to be some kind of rift growing between the sheriff and some county officials.

“It’s not an issue of banning the sales of guns, which the 2nd 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 [the] health officer,” he said.

The Times reported that Villanueva is a gun owner and supports that Second Amendment. At the same time that he announced the gun store closures, he announced that the county was going to release 1,700 nonviolent inmates from county jail to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Governors and city leaders across the country have taken the lead on how best to approach their states’ coronavirus responses. Villanueva is not the first official to call gun shops nonessential. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo also declared gun stores nonessential last week.

Gun dealerships across the U.S. have reported a surge in firearms sales amid the coronavirus outbreak and the government’s sweeping response to try and limit the spread. Gun rights advocates worry that the government will use the outbreak as an excuse to ban gun sales.

On Tuesday, Villanueva blasted politicians in Los Angeles County for leaving out law enforcement in press conferences and said they have been unclear in their message. He pointed to the number of people who disregarded the state’s stay-at-home order last weekend.

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