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San Diego sheriff says gun shops can stay open amid coronavirus crisis

On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom decided that he would defer to the state's sheriffs "on whether gun stores are essential businesses that should remain open."
Credit: AP
David Liu, right, owner of a gun store, takes an order from a customer in Arcadia, Calif., Sunday, March 15, 2020. Coronavirus concerns have led to consumer panic buying of grocery staples and now gun stores are seeing a run on weapons and ammunition as panic intensifies. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

SAN DIEGO — Gun stores can remain open for business in San Diego County during the coronavirus crisis -- subject to restrictions -- despite California's far-reaching limits on retail operations amid the pandemic, Sheriff Bill Gore said Thursday.

On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom decided that he would defer to the state's sheriffs "on whether gun stores are essential businesses that should remain open under his (COVID-19-related) executive order," Gore announced in a prepared statement released this afternoon.

The governor's set of mandates regarding the pandemic, issued last Thursday, did not designate gun shops as among such "critical infrastructure sectors" as food vendors, gas stations, pharmacies, banks and laundromats. The omission prompted Gore to seek further guidance from Newsom on the issue.

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"Licensed firearm retailers provide a valuable public-safety service by performing background checks on guns and on ammunition," Gore said. "In doing this, there is assurance that those who cannot legally possess firearms are not allowed to purchase them and that waiting periods are complied with."

Law enforcement officials "need to ensure that we do not create further public-safety risks by driving lawful sales of firearms to an underground or off-the-books black market during these difficult times," the sheriff asserted.

"That said, we must balance that need with the need to preserve public health through enforcement of the governor's executive order and the county of San Diego (coronavirus-related) public-health order," which set out social-distance rules and prohibit gatherings of 10 or more people, Gore stated.

"In order to comply with (the mandates), I am asking all retail firearms establishments to look at alternative sales options, which might include scheduling appointments," he said.

The sheriff called on local residents interested in buying guns and ammunition during the ongoing public-health crisis to do so only through federally licensed dealers while strictly observing the government dictates.

"Voluntary compliance and self-regulation are essential to limiting the spread of COVID-19 in our community," Gore said. "Where law enforcement can gain compliance and cooperation, we will. Where that is not the case, we will employ additional enforcement options as necessary in order to gain compliance and protect public health and safety."

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