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Members of Congress Call on Homeland Security to Drop Gun Shops from Essential Business List

April 9, 2020
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) today joined Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) in calling on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to remove gun retailers and manufacturers from the list of essential businesses in its guidance to local and state officials in containing the spread of COVID-19. Firearm distributors provide no proven public health benefit, and in fact, the proliferation of guns pose added safety threats to communities.

“No reputable public health expert would urge local leaders to add more firearms to a mix of public anxiety and the swelling economic and mental health stress that this global pandemic has ushered in. It is an absurd and dangerous idea that only a gun lobby could hatch,” said Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23). “We need to make our communities safer. This essential business advisory does the opposite. We cannot shoot this virus. Defeating COVID-19 requires bolstering our health systems and diligent social distancing and sanitation measures. The National Rifle Association already unleashed a gun violence health menace on this nation, we should not allow gun lobbyists to make this unfolding viral health pandemic any worse.”

On March 28, 2020, The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) published an “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” advisory list to help State, local, tribal and territorial officials ensure that a continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the workers included in that, were those supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors and shooting ranges. Members wrote DHS today to ask that all firearm-related business categories be removed from its critical infrastructure list.

“The battle against this pandemic is being fought in homes and hospitals across our nation, we call on the Department of Homeland Security to listen to the research and not exacerbate this already dire situation by keeping gun and ammunition retailers on the list of essential businesses,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf delivered today. “Public health experts, not the National Rifle Association, should guide our efforts to combat COVID-19.”

Additional Members signed the letter: Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20); Rep. Bobby Rush (IL-01); Rep. Mike Doyle (PA-18); Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR-03); Rep. James P. McGovern (MA-02); Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13); Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32); Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09); Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11); Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-09); Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26); Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-05); Rep. Lois Frankel (FL-21); Rep. Robin L. Kelly (IL-02); Rep. Don Beyer (VA-08); Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13); Rep. Darren Soto (FL-09); Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26).

See the entire letter below.


The Honorable Chad F. Wolf                                     The Honorable Christopher C. Krebs

U.S. Department of Homeland Security                      U.S Department of Homeland Security

Nebraska Ave. Center, NW                                         Nebraska Ave. Center, NW

Washington, D.C 20528                                             Washington, D.C. 20528

 

Dear Secretary Wolf and Director Krebs:


On March 28, 2020, The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) published an “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” advisory list to help State, local, tribal and territorial officials ensure a continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are writing to request that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and CISA remove “workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors and shooting ranges” from this list of critical infrastructure workforce. DHS promotion of the operation of gun and ammunition businesses as “essential,” while only advisory, unduly influences local authorities’ discretion and its ability to stop the spread of COVID-19. This clearly places the gun industry and political interests over valid public health objectives.

The designation also further contributes to a general climate of panic-buying of guns. This recent, excessive proliferation of firearms amid a national pandemic degrades community and individual safety in a variety of obvious and well-documented ways, yet it provides no discernable benefit to public health.           

According to many reports, gun and ammunition retailers have seen a sharp uptick in sales in recent weeks, especially from first-time buyers, as the nation deals with the anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] This trend would be dangerous during any period of time, but especially now, when a large majority of the country is abiding by stay-at-home orders and many schools are closed, an infusion of more guns into our communities represents a grave threat to the health and safety of Americans.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, victims of domestic violence are increasingly being trapped at home with their abusers and research indicates that an abuser is five times more likely to kill their partner if they have access to a firearm.[2]  Firearm purchasers, especially first-time purchasers, might lack the knowledge and experience to also purchase gun storage or safety devices. With more children home from school, this could lead to increased accidental shootings or youth suicides. In addition to creating increased risk for these vulnerable groups, as Dr. Elinore Kaufman, a trauma surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania, described in her recent New York Times editorial, dealing with the daily toll of our country’s existing gun violence epidemic is especially problematic now, as our health care workers are struggling to cope with the influx of new patients that require hospitalization.[3]

The battle against this pandemic is being fought in homes and hospitals across our nation, we call on the Department of Homeland Security to listen to the research and not exacerbate this already dire situation by keeping gun and ammunition retailers on the list of essential businesses. Public health experts, not the National Rifle Association, should guide our efforts to combat COVID-19.


[1] Richard A. Oppel Jr., For Some Buyers With Virus Fears, the Priority Isn’t Toilet Paper. It’s Guns. N.Y. Times, March 16, 2020, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/16/us/coronavirus-gun-buyers.html

[2] J.C. Campbell, et al., “Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results from a Multisite Case Control Study,” American Journal of Public Health 93, no.7 (2003): 1089–1097.

[3]Elinore Kaufman, Please, Stop Shooting. We Need the Beds, N.Y. Times, April 1, 2020, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/opinion/covid-gun-violence-hospitals.html