Last year, an estimated 8.4 million Americans became new gun owners when the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) logged over 21 million background checks for probable firearms sales. In fact, gun sales in 2020 exceeded 2019 totals by 60% and the previous record of 2016 by 34%. The demand for ammunition was also so robust that manufacturers could not keep up.
A significant portion of these sales are undoubtedly the result of threats that President Joe Biden, a politician who labeled arms manufacturers the “enemy” and wants a further ban on “assault weapons” and more, could take over arms control.
However, the bright side of the gun sales boom is not just that more hands-on Americans are learning about this freedom, even though there are many good things to be said. This rise also translates into a boon for conservation and recreational shooting ranges.
The legal mechanism that funds this is the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, better known as the Pittman-Robertson Act (PR), which went into effect in 1937 after the firearms and ammunition industries, athletes, and others asked Congress to do so Wildlife waning to help species.
The result was PR, an excise tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition products. Tax dollars from this program must be distributed to state wildlife agencies for conservation efforts, hunter training, and shot-related projects and programs.
The tax is currently administered by the US Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Commerce Bureau, which routes the funds to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which then manages them through a special account called the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund.
PR funds are made available to states and territories in the year following their collection. Since 1937, PR has raised $ 13.3 billion on various projects, of which nearly $ 1 billion were generated in 2019 alone. However, the actual impact is many times greater, as the PR funds are provided by government agencies and various nature conservation organizations for specific projects.
According to Jim Curcuruto, a consultant to the hunting and firearms industry, firearms and ammunition manufacturers paid approximately $ 3.5 billion in excise duties on small arms, long guns and ammunition from 2015 to 2019.
Fiscal 2020 PR numbers are still being collected and the total 2020 Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund contribution will not be known for several months. Still, Curcuruto said that based on the sales he has seen, he expects additional PR excise taxes of $ 100 million through 2019 in the second half of 2020, bringing the total for 2020 to over $ 710 million -Dollars would bring.
Approximately 75% of excise taxes on arms and ammunition come from purchases unrelated to hunting. State wildlife agencies often use these excise funds to build or improve target shooting ranges, giving gun owners even more places to practice and safely enjoy the sport of shooting.
In legislation, recreational shooting has received a huge boost with the recent passage of HR 1222, the Target Practice Aid and Marksmanship Training Act commonly referred to as the “Range Bill”. The Range Bill, signed by President Donald Trump in 2019, made it much easier for state wildlife and resource management agencies to use PR resources more flexibly to upgrade existing recreational shooting ranges and build new ones. Thanks to this legislation, states now have more time to devote to construction and improvement projects, which is vital for navigating the permits to buy land, permits, and permits for projects.
In addition, states now only have to pay a down payment of 10% for projects instead of the 25% previously required. So if a state wildlife agency wanted to build a new $ 1 million recreational shooting range, the state would only have to put in $ 100,000 in government funds to access the remaining $ 900,000 in public relations funds.
Some projects that benefit from the Range Bill have already started, including:
• A $ 2.5 million improvement to the shooting range at the Mike Commander WMA publicly accessible shooting range near Albany, Georgia. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is expanding the range of 200-yard rifles to 15 positions while expanding access to disabled shooters.
• A new $ 2.25 million public rifle range in Marion, NC that will include a 100 yard shooting range, 25 yard pistol area, and a 3D archery course. The land is currently owned by McDowell County, which is working with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to develop the area.
These additional shooting opportunities for the public will enhance and strengthen the second change by providing more venues for firearms and marksmanship training, as well as hunter training.
So if a new gun owner or someone who does not use this fundamental right asks about shooting, tell them that every time they hear a gun slap they will also hear a cha-ching for conservation and American recreation.