Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told Fox News on Tuesday morning that he has ordered all gun stores in the county to close, a move that will begin taking place immediately.
“LA County Sheriff tells me he is beginning to close county gun stores immediately,” tweeted Fox News reporter Bill Melugin. “Deputies are currently going to the stores one by one to order them shut down. Sheriff to utilize scofflaw violations for any store still open after he deemed them nonessential.”
BREAKING: LA County Sheriff tells me he is beginning to close county gun stores immediately. Deputies are currently going to the stores one by one to order them shut down. Sheriff to utilize scofflaw violations for any gun store still open after he deemed them nonessential @FOXLA
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) March 24, 2020
According to Fox News, the sheriff, who is also the official director of emergency operations during times of crisis, said that the closures were, in part, motivated by an influx of first-time gun owners purchasing weapons. He later told the news agency that the increase in first-time buyers was creating social distancing problems at gun stores.
“We will be closing them, they are not an essential function,” Villanueva said, the news agency reported. “I’m a supporter of the 2nd amendment, I’m a gun owner myself, but now you have the mixture of people that are not formerly gun owners and you have a lot more people at home and anytime you introduce a firearm in a home, from what I understand from CDC studies, it increases fourfold the chance that someone is gonna get shot.”
The move was taken alongside an effort to close down other businesses, including bars and strip clubs, according to The Los Angeles Times.
“Gun shops, strip clubs, night clubs are nonessential businesses. We are trying to get them to close their doors,” said Villanueva, reported the news agency. “If they don’t close their doors, they will be cited.”
The sheriff also clarified that no one would be jailed as a result of the order, and similar closures had already been ordered in Northern California, Fox News reported.
The Mercury News reported that the city of San Jose, California, which has more than 1 million people, ordered the closure of gun stores last week, citing concerns that people were panic buying weapons.
“We are having panic buying right now for food,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “The one thing we cannot have is panic buying of guns.”
Villanueva told Fox News in an interview that he was also increasing the number of sheriff deputies on patrol by 1,300. The sheriff also blasted local politicians for failing to convince the public to take the coronavirus threat seriously.
“When we’re communicating the shelter in place or the safer at home, there’s a lot of anguish, however, the people who have to enforce it are public safety, and we were totally out of the process, we were not involved,” said the sheriff, as reported by Fox News.
The city has also closed parks, trails, and beach parking lots because of “overcrowding” concerns, according to NBC Los Angeles.