To strengthen 2A, Rep. Newhouse introduces bill designating firearms industry workers as 'essential'

Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse's bill aims to bolster the Second Amendment

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., introduced a bill designating workers in the firearms industry as "essential" in a move aiming to bolster the Second Amendment.

The Washington Republican announced the "Second Amendment is Essential Act," which would classify the gun industry as "a critical infrastructure sector" and the industry’s employees as critical workers, in a press release sent out this week.

Newhouse took aim at Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, and other governors around the country for not designating federal firearms licensees as essential workers, accusing them of infringing on Americans’ Second Amendment rights and "recklessly" tying the hands of police.

"It is always unconstitutional for government to restrict the rights of law-abiding gun owners, but to do so in the midst of a crisis is especially unconscionable," Newhouse said in a statement.

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"By denying Federal Firearms Licensees the ability to operate under ‘essential worker’ designations, Governors across the country, including Jay Inslee, have not only infringed on the Second Amendment rights of Americans, but have recklessly tied the hands of our law enforcement officers who require access to these tools to ensure the safety of our communities," the congressman continued.

Newhouse added that his legislation "protects" American citizens’ "ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights," while preventing measures "that restrict lawful access to firearms in times of emergency."

The bill is seeing early support from local officials as well as influential pro-Second Amendment organizations, including the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), Gun Owners of America, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

"The way many anti-gun politicians reacted to the COVID-19 crisis was proof these politicians will exploit any opportunity to push their agenda," said NRA-ILA executive director Jason Ouimet. "Last year, we fought numerous attempts by lawmakers and regulators to shut down firearms retailers and keep them closed, limiting Americans’ ability to protect themselves when they felt most vulnerable."

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"The Second Amendment is Essential Act of 2021 makes it clear the firearms industry and its workers are to be deemed ‘essential’ in any future emergency proclamations," he continued.

Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, praised the "necessary legislation" and said the bill is "critical to prevent an administration that is hostile to lawful firearm ownership from using an emergency declaration to shutter the industry and deny Americans the ability to approach the gun counter.

"That’s where Second Amendment rights begin – when those who obey the law make the decision to lawfully purchase a firearm," Keane added.

Aidan Johnston, the director of federal affairs for Gun Owners of America, said the legislation "clarifies that the government has no authority to infringe upon the essential role" played by firearms manufacturers and their employees in keeping up the Second Amendment during times of crisis.

"It is unconscionable to subject our constitutionally protected rights to the whimsical ‘health’ concerns of anti-gun politicians and bureaucrats," Johnston said. "Congress can never allow these failed gun laws to harm American gun owners again."

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Several states were pressured into designating gun stores as essential businesses at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic due to Trump administration guidance.

New Jersey was one of those states, with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy saying in April 2020 that he disagreed with defining gun stores as essential, but he reversed a decision not to include guns stores on the list of essential businesses in the state.

"It wouldn’t have been my definition but that is the definition at the federal level, and I didn’t get a vote on that," said Murphy.

Rep. Newhouse's bill has 24 co-sponsors that include prominent Republicans such as Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.; Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas; Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C.; and Markwayne Mullin, R-Ok.

However, despite Republican support, it is unlikely to pass in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. 

Inslee’s office did not immediately return Fox News’ request for comment.