Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and state Gov. Gavin Newsom were sued Friday in federal court by the NRA and other groups for allegedly using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to close gun stores in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Attorneys for the NRA, 2nd Amendment Foundation, California Gun Rights Foundation and the Firearms Policy Coalition filed the complaint in Los Angeles federal court, seeking to have a judge order defendants not to prevent approved shoppers from buying and selling arms in accordance with state and federal laws.
The circumstances posed by the worsening COVID-19 outbreak “are noteworthy, but do not excuse unlawful government infringements upon freedom,” according to the lawsuit.
“In fact, the importance of maintaining the ongoing activities of essential businesses for the safety, health and welfare of Californians makes plaintiffs’ point: the need for enhanced safety during uncertain times is precisely when plaintiffs and their members must be able to exercise their fundamental rights to keep and bear arms,” the complaint states.
On Thursday, Villanueva ordered all gun shops closed and sales halted during the coronavirus pandemic unless buyers are police or security personnel. The sheriff had sought to implement the closure earlier this week but said he was told by county lawyers that gun shops could be considered “essential businesses” under new rules to encourage social distancing and cut the spread of the virus. The sheriff then backtracked and suspended the closure.
Newsom’s office determined, however, that sheriffs do have the authority to make such closures.
Villanueva said only police officers and licensed security guards will be allowed to purchase weapons and ammunition at stores in county areas and cities patrolled by the sheriff’s department.
“California’s attack on fundamental rights in times of emergency must be stopped in its tracks,” said Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, one of the plaintiffs.
“This case is part of our mission to win firearms freedom one lawsuit at a time. And more, the lawsuits we are filing across the country are making a large number of other states, counties and cities think twice before closing down essential gun stores,” Gottlieb said.