• Sheriff Alex Villanueva earlier said gun shops were “nonessential” 
  • He relaxed the restrictions later 
  • The gun shops were reportedly defying the social distancing guidelines given the long queues in front of them

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva went back on his decision to classify gun shops as “nonessential,” and allowed to stay them open amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The relaxation of restriction came hours after Villanueva called them “nonessential” in response to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s March 19 “Stay Home” order placing a few businesses under closure until further notice.

Villanueva on Tuesday said the “Gun shops, strip clubs, night clubs are nonessential businesses. We are trying to get them to close their doors."

He said he was considering closing certain non-essential businesses, including gun shops as they weren’t following social distancing guidelines. The gunshops were said to have encountered long queues as anxiety mounted during the viral pandemic, ABC7 reported.

The closure order sparked a considerable backlash, including from Gun Owners of California, a gun rights organization. The sheriff’s department announced on Twitter later in the night that "enforcement efforts to close non-essential businesses have been suspended" pending Newsom’s approval on what classifies as a non-essential business.

"Those that are involved in the security business that still need to do their business ... we want to make sure they're properly equipped," the publication quoted Villanueva as saying. "However that is not a license for everyone to do panic gun buying and rushing to stores. Which is now what we're seeing. That violates the issue of social distancing."

San Diego County Bill Gore said gun shops in his county will remain open looking at their public service aspect, NBC 7 reported.

As many as 55,255 cases have been reported in the U.S. as of Wednesday, with 802 deaths of which 16 were associated to California, according to Johns Hopkins website.

A worker inspects an AR-15 gun at Davidson Defense in Orem, Utah
A worker inspects an AR-15 gun at Davidson Defense in Orem, Utah AFP / GEORGE FREY