LA County Sheriff orders gun stores to close; adds 1,300 deputies to patrol

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LA County Sheriff announces coronavirus changes

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says that all gun stores in the county will be forced to close. He's adding more deputies to patrol. And releasing over a thousand nonviolent offenders from jail. He also had criticism for local politicians.

In a sit-down interview with FOX 11, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva declared gun stores as nonessential businesses that will be forced to close.

Sheriff Villanueva also said he’s adding 1,300 deputies to patrol, that he’s released 1,700 nonviolent inmates from county jails, and criticized how local politicians have handled the messaging behind the numerous stay-at-home orders.

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Gun stores closing in LA County

As FOX 11 was first to report, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says gun stores don't belong on that list. Many people are heading out to buy firearms before a deadline. But some are being turned away.

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“This is about taking care of people, not elected officials or politicians,” Villanueva said.

He pointed out that the routine press conferences routinely involve politicians thanking each other, and minimal important information.

“When I see the same faces and they’re saying a lot but there’s no substance, you eventually become background noise and people just tune you out,” Villanueva said.

The Sheriff is also the Director of Emergency Operations, meaning he is the number one person in charge during a crisis like the coronavirus. All FEMA requests go through him, and all National Guard requests go through him., FOX launches national hub for COVID-19 news and updates.

Up until Monday, neither Villanueva, nor any law enforcement official had been included in any of the LA county press conferences, and he believes the public stopped listening to the politicians, with evidence being how many people violated the stay at home order over the weekend.

“When we’re communicating the shelter in place or the safer at home, there’s a lot of anguish, however, the people who have to enforce it are public safety, and we were totally out of the process, we were not involved,” Villanueva said. 

RELATED: List of 'essential' jobs, businesses

“Then after the fact, the same people delivering the message were complaining  about why people weren’t listening to the message, perhaps because they should have used authority figures the community recognizes that would be the enforcers of it to deliver the message with far greater impact.”

As a result, Villanueva sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors, essentially telling them he’s taking the reigns and the messaging will go through him now.

“Everyone has to play in the sandbox together,” he said.

One clear message that Villanueva is sending, is on gun stores.

“We will be closing them, they are not an essential function,” Villanueva said. “I’m a supporter of the 2nd amendment, I’m a gun owner myself, but now you have the mixture of people that are not formerly gun owners and you have a lot more people at home and anytime you introduce a firearm in a home, from what I understand from CDC studies, it increases fourfold the chance that someone is gonna get shot.”

Villanueva told FOX 11 he’s adding 1,300 deputies to patrol, doubling the current amount, and in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in jail, he has released 10% of the inmate population from county jails, 1,700 nonviolent offenders with misdemeanor sentences that were up within 30 days.

“We’re gonna keep violent felony suspects who are a threat to the community in the jail no matter what,” Villanueva said. “Anybody who has an idea that somehow we’re not going to be hard on crooks out there on the streets, they’re tragically mistaken, there’s twice as many deputies on the street now so the odds of you getting caught are a lot higher.”

The Sheriff also told FOX 11 he’s obtained 1 million N-95 masks to distribute to local hospitals and police departments.

250,000 were delivered to a medical supply hub in Long Beach on Monday.

125,000 more will be delivered to LAPD.

Another 30,000 will be distributed to local police departments.

As for numerous photos posted to social media showing military vehicles in our area, Villanueva said the National Guard has not responded here, and he would only ask them to under dire circumstances.

“If we start losing major portions of our sworn personnel, that impacts our ability to man jails or our patrol obligations, and were running out of people to do that, if were in that position typically our counterparts in LAPD they’ll be in the same boat, then we can use the National Guard to start assigning them to security operations,” Villanueva said.