After clash with county counsel, LA County sheriff halts enforcement to close gun stores during coronavirus lockdown


Los Angeles County’s sheriff on Tuesday had initially urged all gun stores on Tuesday to close this week and threatened enforcement, calling such businesses “non-essential” amid the coronavirus outbreak.

But by the evening, after the top lawyer for the county expressed an opposing view, arguing those shops should be open, Sheriff Alex Villanueva reversed his stance, deciding to suspend enforcement efforts to close gun stores.

The decision to halt enforcement came after a conversation between Villanueva and county counsel, said Deputy Tracy Koerner, a spokesman for the sheriff’s department.

In a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Villanueva said his department had received complaints of gun stores remaining open, and that he planned to enforce closing those stores, along with “non-essential” businesses, such as bars, night clubs, and strip clubs, which he said was in line with the county and state-wide measures to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But Villanueva’s calls for gun shop closures contradicted with a statement issued by the top lawyer for the county, which said that neither L.A. county’s stay-at-home order or the executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom specifically mentioned gun shops, prompting the Los Angeles County counsel’s office to issue a statement late Tuesday saying it has “opined that gun stores qualify as essential businesses.”

The county counsel provides legal counsel to the board of supervisors and county departments.

County Counsel Mary Wickham could not immediately be reached Tuesday evening.

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