UPDATE: LA County Sheriff's Plan to Close Gun Stores as "Nonessential" Halted

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

CORRECTS TO CULVER CITY, INSTEAD OF LOS ANGELES An employee stands at the entrance to a guns shop Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Culver City, Calif. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he would like to see gun shops shut down. “We will be closing them, they are not an essential function,” Villanueva said. Adding guns to households where more people are at home during a crisis increases the risk that someone will be shot, he said. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)


As we reported Tuesday afternoon, Monday night Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva declared that gun stores were considered “nonessential” businesses, ordered them closed, and told a Fox 11 Los Angeles reporter that he would be sending deputies to the gun stores, one by one, to order them closed.

Justifiably, civil rights advocates were alarmed, saying the move was unconstitutional, and encouraging owners to resist the order.

Now, Sheriff Villanueva tells Fox LA’s Bill Melguin that “enforcement efforts to close gun stores have been suspended after county counsel intervened w/a legal opinion that gun stores can be considered an essential business under the Governor’s statewide order. Tells me it’s all in limbo now.”


Villanueva also told Melguin that he’d “reached out to the Governor’s office to get clarification on how gun stores should be classified,” but never got a response. Says gun stores were complying with order to close before county counsel intervention.”

Villanueva’s about-face raises a huge question: Why wasn’t county counsel consulted before the Sheriff made such a bold move? Why was Villanueva reaching out to the Governor’s office for a clarification instead of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, who issued the “Stay Safe at Home” order?

It could be that Villanueva’s ongoing feud with the Board of Supervisors is coloring his ability to do his job. Shortly he was elected in 2018, Villanueva re-hired the former deputy who served as his chauffeur during the campaign. The deputy had been terminated after violating department policies on domestic violence and lying, and his termination was upheld by the county’s Civil Service Division. The Board of Supervisors sued Villanueva, alleging that he didn’t have that authority to reinstate the deputy. In that lawsuit, which is still pending, Villanueva’s legal fees have already exceeded $3 million.

Villanueva has also butted heads with the Board of Supervisors over funding for his department. In September 2019, after Villanueva overspent by $63 million and refused to work with the County CEO on a repayment plan, the Board of Supervisors instituted a hiring freeze and pulled $143 million from his current budget as “insurance.”


During the same interview in which he insisted that gun stores were nonessential businesses, Villanueva claimed that the Board of Supervisors was keeping him out of press conferences and planning during pandemic response, accusing them of using the press conferences to stroke each other’s egos. He also said that Los Angeles residents were ignoring the social distancing orders (as evidenced by throngs of people out at popular hiking and beach spots over the weekend) because there wasn’t a person of “authority” speaking in the news conferences.

The next Board of Supervisors meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, should be interesting.


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