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Castro Valley Gun Shop Owner Claims Store, Ordered Shut, Is 'Essential Business'

CASTRO VALLEY (KPIX) -- In a time of quarantines and stay-at-home orders, should a gun store be considered an "essential business?"

That's the debate in Alameda County as sheriff's deputies order shut gun stores that continue to defy the shelter-in-place order.

For the past week, the sheriff's office has repeatedly told Solar Tactical in Castro Valley to shut down and, on Friday, the store's owner finally closed up shop after the district attorney threatened him with prosecution.

Yet some people argue that gun stores are important in keeping people safe.

"There's been a home invasion two doors down from where I lived," said Joshua Boothby, who stopped by Solar Tactical to pick up a handgun. Boothby had purchased the gun 10 days ago. And it was ready for pickup after the required cooling-off period and background check. He arrived at the store Friday afternoon to find it closed.

Boothby said guns and ammo are essential in these uncertain times. He already owns a shotgun but he thought a handgun would better protect his family if someone breaks in to his Castro Valley home.

"It's kind of concerning that, like, you're hearing about martial law might go into effect and then you hear about prisoners being released," said Boothby.

Solar Tactical shuttered its stores in Livermore and Castro Valley Friday morning.

"A gun store is an essential business because it's a Second-Amendment right," explained Solar Tactical owner Mike Addis. "A lot of our customers are business owners and they're concerned about looting or they're concerned about their personal safety in the house," Addis added.

Addis said business has been going through the roof and most customers are first-time buyers. He felt unfairly targeted and singled out by the sheriff.

"Definitely a mixed message. Up and down California, some shops are open, some are not open. Big 5 can sell guns right now. Walmart can sell guns right now," Addis said.

"This was never an argument over the Second Amendment. This was an argument about essential versus non-essential in the fight against COVID-19," said Sgt. Ray Kelly, spokesman for Alameda County Sheriff's Office.

The sheriff's office says that, in a health crisis, they have to make tough decisions.

"People that are buying weapons now -- all of a sudden -- that were not weapons owners prior, what type of training and experience do they have in handling those weapons? That's a concern," Sgt. Kelly said.

Kelly said gun stores were not labeled as essential businesses. But, nearly everybody has an opinion on whether gun stores are essential.

"It's not essential," said Daniel Alderete of Pinole. "It's not a grocery store -- you do got to go and eat. You've got to go to the hospital. But (the gun store), for what reason? Are you going to shoot the coronavirus?" Alderete wondered.

Addis said he may reopen depending on what his attorney advises. They are reviewing the legal standing and are trying to convince county leaders that gun stores are essential business.

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