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By Mary Papenfuss

WASHINGTON - The Trump administration has determined that the firearms industry — from manufacturing to retail sales and shooting ranges — is a “critical” service that should continue to operate amid the coronavirus crisis.

The firearms industry was added Saturday to a federal list created a week earlier of “essential critical infrastructure” elements during the COVID-19 emergency.

“Workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors and shooting ranges” are “typically considered essential to continued critical infrastructure viability,” said an updated statement by the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The new statement was listed under a “law enforcement” and “public safety” section.

Other critical operations on the lengthy list include energy, telecommunications, food production, emergency services, government offices, transportation and health care.

The list is not a directive, but advisory for states and municipal governments as many shut down inessential businesses to help stem the spread of COVID-19.

It’s “intended to help state, local, tribal and territorial officials as they work to protect their communities while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security,” said the CISA statement.

The Los Angeles County sheriff shut down gun stores this month after California Governor Gavin Newsom left decisions on critical infrastructure up to county governments. Gun groups immediately sued.

The addition of the firearms industry as a critical operation comes amid lobbying by gun groups as firearm and ammunition sales skyrocket across the nation.

The move was immediately blasted by gun-control advocates. The Brady Campaign called it “contemptible, ill-conceived and dangerous.”

Adam Skaggs, chief counsel and policy director of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said it’s time now to focus on the “health and safety of all Americans — not the bottom line of the gun industry.”

The centre warned that “panic-buying” of firearms by a fearful public during the pandemic crisis will “help no one,” and “poses serious dangers.”

Officials “should make decisions based on ... public health experts, not misinformation spread by gun industry actors attempting to profit off this crisis,” the centre warned.

The Gun Owners of America said in a statement: “In these uncertain times, the ability to protect yourself — and to acquire firearms, magazines and ammunition — should not be ignored.”