At its meeting on April 2 held via video conference, the city council unanimously voted to expand the Residential Tenant Eviction Moratorium (RTEM) and to allow firearm retailers to remain open amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
The RTEM prohibits all evictions of residential tenants who have difficulties paying rent due to the effects of the pandemic and the stay at home orders that have come as a result of it, and has been extended through May 31 by a 5-0 vote at this meeting.
The vote to allow firearms retailers to conduct business, including new sales and transfers, during the COVID-19 emergency is consistent with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) advisory guidance and the Los Angeles County’s positions regarding firearms retailers.
Both of these decisions are also confirmations of supplements to the March 16 public order released by City Manager and Director of Emergency Services John M. Nachbar. That original order included the closure of in person dining, as well as entertainment venues and areas where social distancing would not be practical or possible. The supplement to extend the RTEM was issued on March 27, while the firearm retailer supplement was released on April 1.
While the RTEM discussion was brisk, the discussion to keep firearm retailers open lasted a significant amount of time — over two hours. There was only one speaker who submitted comments in regards to the RTEM, saying the moratorium was too broad, and argued that it was not consitutional. City Attorney Heather Baker confirmed that this was in fact within the city authority to enforce this policy and monitor certain eviction proceedings to prevent abuse of the moratorium.
Following this confirmation, a motion was made to vote and the resolution passed unanimously.
The topic of firearm retailers is not just controversial in Culver City, and the situation that resulted in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office not reccomending the closure of firearm retailers on March 30 after changing their position several times.
Just two days later, the city director released the supplement to the public order allowing firearm retailers to remain open. City staff also noted that there is only one retailer in the city that involves live weapons and ammunition.
The resolution to confirm that supplement was met with 168 speaker cards, but the comments were started off by statement by Martin B. Retting, who owns the self named firearm retailer in Culver City. Retting implored the council to allow him to remain open, citing that he has been doing safe and responsible business in Culver City since 1953, though the company’s website states it has been in its current location since 1958.
Retting outlined his current COVID-19 policies as well, which includes strict, appointment only visitation, allowing a max of three patrons inside the store at a time, changing and washing customers pens, and sanitizing hard surfaces.
Retting also noted the reclassification of firearm retailers as general infrustructure and public safety by CISA on March 28, which makes them essential businesses.
There was plenty of input from both sides of the spectrum among the 168 comments, with some believing that more discussion needed to be had due to the potential for crime and suicide enabled by guns, and others calling on their constitutional rights as justification for firearm retailers to be deemed essential.
While many of the councilmembers have been gun control activists, the understanding and general consensus among the councilmembers was that this decision was not to be made based on politics, but on necessity because of the inconsistent county policy.
Councilmember Daniel Lee confirmed he would vote yes for this reason, but expressed reservations. Councilmember Alex Fisch promised he would work more for common sense gun control.
The resolution passed 5-0.