WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., is sponsoring a bill that would categorize the firearms industry as "critical infrastructure" and those who make, sell and repair guns and ammunition as essential workers.
The bill has support from some Columbia Basin officials, including Moses Lake Police Chief Kevin Fuhr.
Newhouse introduced on Tuesday the "Second Amendment is Essential Act" to amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the Patriot Act, passed nearly 20 years ago following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, to add the manufacture, importation and selling of firearms and ammunition to the list of businesses and industries essential to U.S. safety and security in times of emergency as currently defined by federal law.
Under both the Homeland Security Act and the Patriot Act, the president of the United States was empowered to identify industries and sectors of the U.S. economy that are critical to national security and public safety. The current list, maintained by the federal government's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, includes 16 specific sectors: chemicals, commercial facilities, communications, critical manufacturing (metals, vehicles, engines and electric motors), dams, the defense industry, emergency services, energy, financial services, food and agriculture, government, health care, information technology, nuclear power and materials, transportation, and water and wastewater treatment.
In a press release, Newhouse said the measure would prevent state governors from infringing upon Second Amendment rights during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic and keep law enforcement officers adequately equipped.
"This legislation protects law-abiding citizens' ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights and prevents future anti-gun restrictions that limit lawful access to firearms in times of emergency," Newhouse said in a statement.
Locally, the measure is supported by Benton County Commissioner Jerome Delvin, Yakima County Commissioner Amanda McKinney, and Fuhr.
Asked why he supports the bill, Fuhr referred to recent experience.
"We are having a hard time getting ammunition," Fuhr told the Columbia Basin Herald. "We shoot 9mm ammunition, and we're having a heck of a time."
Fuhr said the situation was so dire last year that the Moses Lake Police Department was concerned about being able to adequately train its officers.
Obtaining firearms themselves are not a problem, Fuhr said, though he added that the department did have issues trying to replace some of its rifles last year.
"It took time to get them," he said.
Fuhr said he supports the measure because it will help police departments like his maintain public order and preserve public safety in times of extended emergency.
"We need to get orders filled. We need ammunition and we need firearms to do our job," he said.