First (and speaking of wanting my head on a block), years back — good grief, can it be almost a decade? — I stepped up to the podium at the largest hunting conclave ever to say that taxation without representation was still tyranny. I was speaking of the Pittman-Robertson funds, of course, derived from tax monies on guns, ammunition, components, etc. Those monies, in the hundreds of millions of dollars each year, have gone to wildlife restoration, wetland purchases, hunter education and funding state fish and game departments and programs. A tiny tiny trickle of the money also went into shooting ranges.
The problem that we saw, based on research from me and Paul Erhardt, was that the there had been a profound change in the market from hunting to shooting, and that change had not been reflected in the allocation of P-R funds. The steady decline of hunting, combined with the meteoric rise of competition shooting and training, coupled with CCW-driven birth and rise to prominence of Gun Culture Ver. 2.0 meant that we represented a majority of the taxes being paid. But 99.99% of the funds were going to hunting/conservation.
I'm not knocking hunting/conservation at all, but come on! We're dying for shooting ranges and awash in ducks! I made the decision to step up to the plate and declare the emperor had no clothes. I will say it got a bit (a big bit) hot in the kitchen......axe...block...neck, etc.
But we won.
The industry has come around to the view that the shooting/training/CCW Ver. 2.0 gun culture is the future. By industry numbers, hunting now ranks 4th as a driver. And now the next steps...refining Pittman-Robertson. This from Senator Mark Udall's (D-CO) office, about Senate Bill S-1249 — Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act:
Today, Mark Udall re-introduced legislation to help states construct and maintain safe public shooting ranges. The bill, the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act, would help ensure that there are enough accessible ranges where hunters and marksmen can safely practice recreational shooting.
Under current law – the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act – an excise tax is collected on sporting equipment and ammunition, which states can use for activities such as wildlife restoration and hunter education programs. However, it has limited effectiveness in establishing and maintaining shooting ranges, which are declining in number. Udall’s Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act, co-sponsored by Senators Jim Risch, Michael Bennet and Jon Tester, would amend the law to give states more flexibility to use existing funds to create and maintain shooting ranges.
“The number of places in our communities and on public lands where Colorado sportsmen and women can safely shoot and target practice has steadily dwindled,” Udall said. “This bill would give states more flexibility to use federal dollars – that have already been allocated to them – to create safe, new public places to shoot. It would be a triple win for sporting and conservation communities: states can create higher quality and safer shooting ranges, more Coloradans can take up the sport, and it would generate more money for future conservation and hunter education efforts.”
Udall’s bill would:
• Increase the amount of money states can contribute from their allotted Pittman-Robertson funds to 90 percent of the cost to improve or construct a public target range from the current limit of 75 percent. This would reduce local and state matching requirements from 25 percent to 10 percent.
• Allow the Pittman-Robertson funds allotted to a state to remain available and accrue for five fiscal years for use in acquiring land for, expanding, or constructing a public target range on federal or non-federal land. Under current law, states must use these funds within one year.
• Limit the legal liability exposure to the federal land management agencies regarding the management and use of federal land for target practice or marksmanship training.
• Encourage the federal land management agencies to cooperate with state and local authorities to maintain target ranges on federal land so as to encourage their continued use.The bill is fully supported by NSSF, which has taken the lead in allocating P-R funds to shooting ranges through their innovative grant system.
NSSF Applauds Introduction of the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Act in Senate
June 27, 2011 By Larry Keane
NEWTOWN, Conn. – The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry, applauded the introduction of the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Act by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO). This bi-partisan legislation will give states greater flexibility to use more of their designated federal wildlife resources (i.e. Pittman-Robertson funds) to establish safe recreational shooting areas. More specifically, the legislation will help facilitate the construction and expansion of public target ranges, including ranges on federal land managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
“We appreciate Sen. Udall’s leadership in fighting for safe, accessible shooting facilities,” said Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “This legislation clears the way for new shooting ranges and allows for the proper management of existing ones. Access to these facilities is paramount to continuing to pass on our hunting and shooting sports heritage to younger generations.”
A recent survey by the Responsive Management Company has show that the biggest obstacle to participation in hunting and the shooting sports is access. In addressing this concern, the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Act will not only help sportsmen and target shooters, but wildlife and conservation efforts as well. Active participation in hunting and the shooting sports means increased production of firearms and ammunition. Manufacturers of firearms and ammunition pay a federal excise tax — 11 percent on long guns and ammunition and 10 percent on handguns — which is used to fund wildlife and conservation efforts. By giving gun owners better access to ranges, the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Act will help to encourage participation in these pro-conservation pastimes.
By allowing the states more latitude in determining how excise tax dollars are used to enhance and develop public shooting facilities, wildlife conservation funding will increase. This benefits all sportsmen and is a strong return on investment.This is HUGE! One of the baseline strategies of our enemies — perhaps the only one that has been working, BTW — has been to deprive us of places to shoot. A significant amount of revenue flowing into range development, coupled with pushing federal land management agencies to allow land for ranges (a big issue here in Colorado), is a very important start.
Personally, I will not be happy until we have parity, that is, until the P-R funds are allocated by percentage based on industry-derived numbers. If shooting/training/CCW represents 60% of the purchasing activity in an given year, then 60% of the P-R funds should be allocated for programs that benefit that segment of the industry.
Taxation without representation is always tyranny, no matter how well-intentioned the goals for that taxation are!
Thank you, Senator Udall, and thank you, NSSF!