Guns not ‘essential’ good in San Jose

Gun News

SAN JOSE — As Bay Area business owners navigated the labyrinthine rules of the sweeping shelter-in-place order implemented Monday, many gun dealers across the region opted to stay open this week, amid a spike in sales apparently driven by fears over the coronavirus pandemic.

But after customers lined up around gun stores in several counties Tuesday — including outside the Bullseye Bishop in San Jose — San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo declared that “gun stores are non-essential.”

“We are having panic buying right now for food,” Liccardo said Wednesday. “The one thing we cannot have is panic buying of guns.”

Law enforcement officials confirmed Wednesday that they shut down the Bullseye Bishop with little fanfare, in one of the first enforcement actions taken in San Jose on the initial day of the shelter-in-place order.

“We went out there and closed it,” San Jose police Chief Eddie Garcia said, adding that the owner was cooperative.

Two people who picked up the phone at Bullseye Bishop declined to answer questions from a reporter, repeating that the store is “closed to the public for the next three weeks.”

Outside the shop, San Jose painting contractor Joshua Wolfe, 37, who was buying ammo, said he believed the gun store had every right to remain open.

“Essential? It’s our right to arm ourselves,” Wolfe said. “Toilet paper is essential, right? People are going nuts for that, right?”

Everyone is “on edge,” he said, “because people don’t know the truth of this whole situation. If they’re short on supplies, they’ll come after people who are prepared.”

J.V. Sumabat, 31, of San Jose said he was worried about the same thing.

“I’ve seen people fighting over toilet paper. I’m worried what they will do out of desperation,” he said. “When people start looting stores and they don’t have access to food, they could come into the homes of those they feel are vulnerable. I’d rather be prepared.”

Customers line up outside of Solar Tactical, a gun and ammunition store on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in Castro Valley, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group) 

Garcia said the owner of the store had told officers the business remained open because, under regulations from the California Department of Justice, they are limited in how long they can hold firearms that had already been purchased, and the buyers had to pick them up.

“We told them to go to DOJ and seek a waiver,” Garcia said. “There was no malicious intent. A lot of this stuff is going to happen.”

The gun shop closure was one of a handful of other enforcement actions by SJPD on Tuesday, including similar shutdown talks with three smoke shops, a pet grooming business and a flower shop, none of which resulted in citations. Officers also broke up a pickup basketball game at a city park, reportedly telling the participants they weren’t abiding by social distancing advisories with man-to-man defense.

Law-enforcement agencies throughout the Bay Area have said they will lean toward giving warnings and education people about the sheltering order and that issuing misdemeanor citations — the maximum legal heft to punish violations — will be used as a last resort.

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