Writing Monday in The Federalist, Nephi Cole—director of government relations and state affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation—exposed an untidy fact for gun control zealots, especially those running for the Democratic presidential nomination: Without hunters and shooters, the nation’s wildlife conservation programs could collapse.
“Almost $1 billion each year goes to state wildlife and natural resource agencies courtesy of checks written by firearms, ammunition, and related manufacturers,” Cole wrote. “It is the result of an 11 percent excise tax on firearms, ammunition, and related goods known as Pittman-Robertson, or the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937.”
According to a history of the P-R fund produced by the Congressional Research Service, “Since its creation, Pittman-Robertson has provided over $18.8 billion (in 2018 dollars; $12.2 billion in nominal dollars) to states and territories.”
As Cole observed, “The fact is, law abiding gun owners and their so-called ‘assault weapons’ contribute more money annually to conservation than the Sierra Club, Humane Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, and the National Audubon Society combined. It’s not even close.”
State fish and wildlife agencies receive annual apportionments from this dedicated revenue source, announced each year by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. For Fiscal Year 2019, the payout was $537,264,963, according to an FWS news release earlier this year. That’s from $673,586,164 that was apportioned.
According to FWS, “a total of $41,800,841 has been temporarily sequestered from the Wildlife Restoration Fund and will be available for apportionment next year.”
More than $11.4 million was withheld for FWS administrative support, and an investment of Wildlife Restoration Funds yielded more than $16.2 million in accrued interest, and that money was transferred to the North American Wetlands Conservation account.
Just how anti-gun-rights politicians and the gun prohibition lobby might squirm around this inconvenient truth hasn’t been revealed, if any of them even know. Rarely do any gun control proponents ever mention P-R funding, either out of ignorance or because they simply do not care to acknowledge the huge contribution to wildlife and habitat that America’s gun owners have been making for more than 80 years.
Despite the fact that hunter numbers are down, P-R funding remains healthy. More people, including more women and minorities, are participating in the shooting sports. They are becoming gun owners, as was clearly pointed out during two important panel discussions at last month’s Gun Rights Policy Conference in Phoenix, Ariz. The conference is sponsored annually by the Second Amendment Foundation and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
Making matters tougher for anti-gunners, including those advocating “compensated confiscation” of privately-owned firearms such as modern semi-auto sporting rifles, it is the non-hunter group that provides most of the revenue going into the P-R fund.
Half of all firearms purchases, wrote Cole, are handguns. While there are a fair number of handgun hunters, target shooters and recreational shooters, odds are good that most handguns are purchased for personal protection, another uncomfortable fact anti-gunners endeavor to avoid.
Hunters, whether anti-gunners and those in the anti-hunting movement care to acknowledge it, are primarily responsible for the recovery of wildlife populations. We’re talking about deer, elk, wild sheep, wild turkeys, waterfowl and upland birds. Organizations that annually raise lots of money on their own to use as matching funds or grants for wildlife projects include the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, the Ruffed Grouse Society, Quail Unlimited, Mule Deer Foundation, the Wild Sheep Foundation, Pheasants Forever and other groups have raised millions of dollars.
And here may be the hardest pill for anti-hunters to swallow: All of that habitat being preserved and enhanced is home to non-game species that equally benefit, even though they are never hunted by anybody. It could reasonably be argued that hunters are the original environmentalists.
On the other hand, when municipal anti-gunners such as elected officials in Seattle or Tacoma, Washington – where they either are or want to tax the sale of firearms and ammunition, not a penny of those revenues are earmarked for wildlife-related projects. Those taxes are assessed to penalize law-abiding gun owners for crimes they didn’t commit, critics argue.
Tuesday evening in Tacoma, in fact, the city council will hold a final hearing on the proposed gun and ammunition tax. There has been heavy opposition to this proposal, and local activists are organizing for more to impress the city council that, in their opinion, the gun tax is a very bad idea.
Proponents of extremist gun control policies use camo-speak terms such as “gun reform” or “gun responsibility” to justify their anti-rights positions. But now, instead of just being called anti-gunners, these people may also find themselves branded as anti-wildlife advocates.