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California

Gun rights group sues L.A. over closure of firearms stores during coronavirus

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, left, and City Atty. Mike Feuer
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, left, and City Atty. Mike Feuer
(Nick Ut / Associated Press)

A gun rights group is suing the city of Los Angeles, arguing that an order that has shuttered stores selling firearms in L.A. during the COVID-19 pandemic is unconstitutional and preempted by state law.

The lawsuit, whose plaintiffs include the California Rifle & Pistol Assn. and stores selling firearms in the San Fernando Valley, states that although Mayor Eric Garcetti did not expressly name gun stores in his written order, both Garcetti and City Atty. Mike Feuer have stated that the stores must close and the Police Department has ordered them to shut down.

The rifle group argues that the move defies a state order allowing workers from “critical infrastructure sectors” to continue working. In addition, the plaintiffs contend that the L.A. order violates the California state Constitution by depriving licensed dealers of the ability to operate without “due process of law” and keeping buyers from their “lawfully purchased property.”

The plaintiffs want the courts to force Los Angeles to immediately stop enforcing the order.

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“Firearm stores provide essential and desperately needed services for police, first responders, private security, and concerned citizens — including those who want to be prepared for potential civil unrest,” said Chuck Michel, an attorney representing the plaintiffs.

“The vast majority of jurisdictions in California recognize this. But the city is stubbornly clinging to its dogmatic opposition to allowing people to choose for themselves how best to be prepared,” Michel said.

California Rifle & Pistol Association lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles

Michel added that such stores were “going above and beyond” to ensure social distancing by keeping people at least six feet apart and getting cellphone numbers for customers so they could wait in their cars until being allowed inside.

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In reaction to the lawsuit, Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer said in a statement Saturday that “in this public health emergency, my office will forcefully defend challenges to the mayor’s Safer at Home order.”

“All Angelenos — businesses and residents alike — owe it to each other to comply with the order,” Feuer said in his statement. “The future of our city depends on it.”

Another set of gun owner groups already sued the Los Angeles County sheriff, Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials over the closure of gun stores across the county to anyone but police and licensed security company employees. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, characterized the closure as a violation of the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.

After getting a federal advisory, Sheriff Alex Villanueva changed course and allowed such stores to remain open. The city of Los Angeles, which has continued to order the closure of gun shops, was later added as a defendant in the federal case.

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Feuer and other city attorneys argued in the federal case that “all kinds of businesses have been temporarily shuttered to address a dire public health need” and that gun stores should not be exempt from the order, which was imposed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Any measure that averts unnecessary person-to-person contact slows the spread of infection, and so buys the county’s healthcare system time to address the COVID-19 crisis before the number of sick patients overwhelms its capacity to care for them,” city attorneys wrote in their filing.

Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.


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