July 01

The “Return Act” Guts Pittman-Robertson & Wildlife Conservation

The “Return Act” Guts Pittman-Robertson & Wildlife Conservation and will be the undoing of hunting in the US

Pittman Robertson Act

The “Return Act” GUTS Wildlife Conservation and Hunting

Initially I wanted to write a very sophisticated and technical account of the situation. However, I have decided to give you a layman’s view of the bill and the implications.  Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) has introduced H.R. 8167 a bill that would ultimately be the tumbling pebble that initiated the collapse of the hunting industry. This is a bold and polarizing statement, but unfortunately very true. This bill aims to remove Pittman Robertson (PR) Excise tax from the sale of firearms, ammo and sporting equipment. Don’t know what PR is or does? Simply put, PR is an 11% excise tax to the manufacturers of firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment .  The proceeds of the funding is distributed to state governments for wildlife restoration projects, public shooting ranges, hunter education programs and R3 programs.  

How will this destroy hunting?

  1. Anti-wildlife:  Removing a key component of wildlife conservation funding will ultimately result in less sustainable populations of wild animals, both game and non-game species. Less game, means less opportunity, less opportunity means less participation, less participation means less funding, and less funding means even more loss of wildlife. The all mighty dollar is always the number one contributing factor on policy creation, especially when it’s on a resource that is determined by perceived value. Deer have value to people who want to see them on the landscape, but how much are they willing to pay to see them there? Deer also have value to those who want to hunt them and consume them. Historically hunters are willing to pay much more 20-30x more than wildlife viewers for animals to be on the landscape. Removing, funding just shrinks the hunters voice and adds more road blocks for sound management practices which ultimately will end up hurting wildlife.  
  • Removes a piece of our armor:   One of the most relatable arguments we have as stakeholders in wildlife management and hunting legislation is the funding we bring to the conservation table. It has been very hard for special interest groups and anti-hunting groups to out voice us because we have been protected by the shield of conservation funding. Although PR funds are just a portion of the funding provided by hunters, it is still a very substantial component to wildlife management funding and without question fortifies our right to have a say in what happens in wildlife management. Plus as in the aforementioned example #1, the alternate funding streams would begin to follow suit in a domino effect further stifling the voice of the hunter.
  • Pitman Robertson protects Hunting: PR funds work on a fund matching base. Many states do not have laws that protect funding from license and tag sales from being used by the state for other projects. The way PR works – To help ensure states use the money for wildlife conservation, habitat , shooting facilities, hunter Ed and R3 programs, each state will receive (roughly) $3 for every $1 they generate for these programs. This is an incentive for state fish and game agencies to keep and use as much of their license sales and even create other revenue streams IE: raffles and auctions etc. to receive more funding from PR. If this mechanism is lost, it is very likely that much of the funding brought in by license and tag sales would be pillaged by the state for projects unrelated to wildlife conservation. I don’t have to mention what that would do to our wildlife and hunting opportunity.  

 Cutting off their noses to spite their face!

  1. This bill is likely a political stunt to retaliate to the absurd 1000% tax law introduced by Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia and many of the other anti-gun laws surfacing in the current political climate. Many Republicans have supported this bill touting their 2A membership cards and rallying the “troops” not realizing that pushing this bill forward would be detrimental to the gun industry. According to “American gun facts” 81 million Americans own guns, there are 15-17 million hunters in the US alone so roughly 20% of gun owners are hunters. In order to make an example of anti-gun policy supporters of this bill are willing to punish 20% of their constituency. What happens when hunters can’t hunt anymore and don’t have a need for their firearms or more ammo?
  2. The fertilizer that cultivates 2A: What the supporters of this bill fail to recognize is that PR funds are a main driver for the cultivation of shooting sports. A portion of PR funds are ear marked for public shooting facilities, and youth programs. This not only brings new gun owners into the community but it gives gun owners a place to exercise their right of gun ownership. PR funding is directly tied to the hunting community and hunting conservation, the manufactures of firearms and ammunition recognize and support it because they know that hunting provides an avenue to again exercise the right to owning a firearm. Without these avenues those guns become pieces of furniture in one’s home. What good is a gun in my safe that I can’t go use anywhere?
  3. Stop the tyranny “I intend to stop the Left’s tyranny in its tracks by eliminating the federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition” Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) The Pittman Robertson act was initiated by sportsmen and women and more importantly the gun and ammo manufactures to ensure wildlife and the hunting heritage go on for perpetuity. It wasn’t introduced by some leftist tyrant looking to punish gun owners. By undoing this legacy Act those who support it are becoming what they claim to be fighting against. To representative Clyde’s point, his goal to prevent taxing people out of their rights is without question important. However, this bill is not the answer in fact it may have the reverse affect. Without low cost public ranges gun owners would be forced to use private ranges, which cost more. As demand for these facilities go up the cost will increase. Moreover, if hunting goes away or becomes privatize like in other countries, gun manufactures would be losing a large portion of the hunting community as consumers. Causing revenue to go down which ultimately if you have any concept of economics, will cause the price of firearms and ammo to rise. So who is pricing the “average Joe” out of their 2A rights?      
  4. Blood in the water: The very same groups that this bill boasts to oppose are the biggest benefactors. Anti-hunting groups have recognized the opportunity to jump on board with this bill knowing the damage it would do to the hunter. What happens when you have 2A advocates and anti-hunting groups fighting for the same thing? You guessed it! The demise of hunting as we know it.
  5. The price won’t change: After speaking with two manufactures of ammunitions and firearms both indicated that pricing to the consumer would likely not be affected. When you purchase a firearm for a $100 at the gun store you do not pay $111 plus sales tax for this firearm you pay $100 plus sales tax. The excise tax was paid for by the manufacture. Yes the cost was passed along to you the consumer because it was built into the cost of the gun. Us gun owners have been paying this additional cost since 1919 (even before the PR allocation in 1937) it is not a tax we see or even perceive. Based on my interview with the two different manufactures if the tax goes away the cost of guns and ammo mostly like won’t come down 11% you are still going to be paying the same price you have always paid. So who wins here? Guess who loses? Wildlife, hunters and every gun owner in America.  

To Rep Clyde’s credit his bill does try to provide an alternate funding mechanism for PR through oil and mineral programs, but at an almost 50% discount to the current level of funding, which is bad enough by itself. His proposed solution also stipulates the funding would go to “those of greatest need”, which means elk, turkey, deer, antelope and most animals whom are doing well will not be directly benefitted from this new allocation. Plus, Clyde is basing this funding on an industry that is constantly under fire and depending on who is sitting in the White House dictates the amount of funds generated. Furthermore, this is not the only program that is earmarked to be funded by this industry, in fact it would be last in line.   

Many have dismissed this bill as something that doesn’t have any political traction and that “It won’t go anywhere”. I have seen other seemingly preposterous bills be taking lightly and the sportsman have suffered because of it. There are 50+ sponsors of this bill, do not take it lightly……  It’s is my opinion that we the hunting and fishing community need to stomp it out so fiercely and send a message so loud that this is not an option and never to mess with wildlife or our hunting heritage. Nothing good can come out of this bill it doesn’t teach the Tyrants they can’t mess with our rights, It will do irreparable damage to wildlife, it won’t save anyone money, it gives anti-hunters more power, it will be the demise of hunting and ultimately it will eliminate a large portion of gun owners in America which is precisely the converse of the 2A movement.