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Los Angeles sheriff gun shops not essential, must close

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County sheriff said Tuesday gun shops are not essential businesses and ordered them to stop selling to the public, a move that enraged Second Amendment advocates who said they planned to challenge it in court.

Los Angeles, the nation’s largest county with 10 million residents, enacted a stay-at-home order last week that ordered all nonessential businesses to close to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Sheriff Alex Villanueva said what he described as a “loophole” allowed gun shops to stay open and many attracted long lines of customers.

Villanueva said the order was only meant to keep open businesses that support police departments and other security organizations.

The stay-at-home order is not a license “for everyone to be panic gun-buying or rushing to stores, which is now what we’re seeing,” Villanueva said.

He said said gun shops have complied and deputies have not had to issue any citations. The county’s stay-at-home order was crafted by the health department and Villanueva said he’s working with the agency on new language.

Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, said his organization is looking at legal action to overturn Villanueva’s decision.

“There are far more important things that the sheriff can be doing than sending uniformed officers to gun stores telling them they’re going to be shut down by force,” Paredes said. “We’ve got lots of stories from people who said, ‘I’d never thought I’d own a firearm, and now I want them more than anything in the world.'”

The FBI reported a slight decline in the number of firearms background checks from California in February, before the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, from 96,567 in January to 95,430 last month.

The state Department of Justice, which does background checks and regulates sales of firearms and ammunition, said it doesn’t have updated statistics for March that can be publicly shared.

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Thompson reported from Sacramento.

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