Are Gun Stores “Essential” Businesses Under Shelter-in-Place Rules? L.A. County Counsel Says Yes.

Legal and public safety concerns are taking front and center in L.A. County, where the coronavirus pandemic has led to a dispute over the status of gun stores.

On Tuesday, Sheriff Alex Villanueva declared that firearm and ammunition sales were non-essential for purposes of state and county shelter-in-place orders and ordered all gun stores closed. Hours later, L.A.'s County Counsel contradicted that decision, saying it has “opined that gun stores qualify as essential businesses” after all.

Can gun stores remain open or not? For now, the answer is yes. Sheriff Villanueva has halted the closures for the time being in deference to the County Counsel’s decision. Meantime, San Diego’s sheriff has also reached the conclusion that gun sales are essential under California’s new rules.

Gun and ammunition sales have ramped up during the pandemic as fears of civil breakdown grow. Buyers fear public safety officers will be too busy to respond to 911 calls and that criminals could take advantage of the ensuing chaos.