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U.S. judge won’t block gun store closures in Los Angeles

Gun store
Customers line up outside a gun store in Burbank on March 17.
(Raul Roa / Times Community News)

A federal judge on Monday refused to block Los Angeles officials from shutting down gun stores as nonessential businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s at least the second time federal judges in California have declined to intervene in shutdown orders even as similar orders are being challenged nationwide.

“The closure of nonessential businesses, including firearms and ammunition retailers, reasonably fits the city’s and county’s stated objectives of reducing the spread of this disease,” U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. wrote in refusing to issue a temporary restraining order.

The National Rifle Assn., three other gun-owner rights groups and several individuals and businesses had sought the injunction against Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

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While Garcetti decided that gun stores are not essential, Villanueva first tried to shutter gun stores in his jurisdiction outside the city, but then reconsidered after the federal government amended its definition of essential businesses to recommend that firearms dealers be allowed.

Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer called the ruling “an important victory” for the officials’ authority to act.

“All our residents and businesses need to comply with the Safer at Home order, to protect our families and help us emerge from this crisis as soon as possible,” Feuer said in a statement.

The disease causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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One of the plaintiffs, the Firearms Policy Coalition, in a statement called the ruling an “utterly absurd and misguided constitutional analysis” that allows officials “to continue violating the fundamental, individual rights of millions of people in Los Angeles County.”

After L.A. County flip-flops on whether gun stores are essential businesses, the sheriff of Riverside County rolls out the welcome mat to gun buyers.

The coalition said the groups will continue to seek a preliminary injunction and ultimately appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall last week similarly declined to block authorities in neighboring Ventura County from shutting down gun stores.

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“While the public interest is served by protecting 2nd Amendment rights, the public interest is also served by protecting the public health by limiting the spread of a virulent disease,” the judge ruled in that case.


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