In response to a recent op-ed in the Colorado Springs Gazette (“Government should not be in the shooting range business”), NSSF would like to help clarify what the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act (S. 1249/H.R. 3065) will accomplish.
First, however, we must correct some statements the writer has made. The writer suggests that both gun owners and private ranges would be paying a tax to provide funding for public shooting ranges. In truth, this funding mechanism has been in place for 75 years at the request of the firearms and ammunition manufacturing industry, and it is paid for by those companies. The excise tax authorized by the Pitman-Robertson Act was imposed to support wildlife conservation and hunter education and to provide for public access and opportunity for members of the public to exercise the Second Amendment!
Second, the author, Barry Fagin, suggests that it is the federal government that would be building shooting ranges with passage of the proposed legislation. That is incorrect. It would be the states, using the funds reallocated to them, along with their own funds, to build and enhance shooting facilities available to the public.
The legislation criticized by Barry Fagin simply would provide states more flexibility to be better able to use the Pittman-Robertson funds for one of the purposes for which the excise tax on manufacturers exists: provide the public with shooting opportunities. Shooting sports participants and manufacturers are the largest financial supporters of wildlife conservation throughout the United States, having contributed more than $7 billion since 1937 to habitat conservation, recreational shooting and wildlife management through Pittman-Robertson excise tax payments. Target shooters are a significant purchaser of the firearms and ammunition for which manufacturers pay the excise tax. Don’t they deserve a return on their investment in the form of more access and opportunity? And when they do get that opportunity, it will lead to more purchases and more funding for conservation, hunter education and, yes, recreational shooting opportunities. It is an unending cycle that benefits all.
In recent years, opportunities for Americans to safely engage in recreational and competitive shooting have declined on both public and private lands. In addition to impacting recreational shooters, these declines have also reduced opportunities for hunters to sight in their firearms and practice shooting before hunting season. This legislation would help address this loss of access and opportunity by allowing states to allocate a greater proportion of their federal Pittman-Robertson wildlife funds to the development of shooting ranges.
Despite the unqualified success of this historic “user pays” system, Pittman-Robertson receipts have traditionally been allocated in a manner that disproportionately underfunds the creation of recreational shooting opportunities. The Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act will fix this inequity. By encouraging states to develop new shooting ranges that will encourage participation in the shooting sports, S. 1249/H.R. 3065 will ensure that a major component of the Pittman-Robertson Act — to maximize funding for wildlife conservation — continues to be fulfilled for generations.