Montana Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines is rightfully known as one of the most conservation-minded senators in Washington, D.C. The senator recently joined NSSF’s Larry Keane for a virtual townhall hosted by NSSF PAC, where he told firearm and ammunition industry members a particularly special story about why the outdoors, conservation and hunting mean so much to him.
Sen. Daines spent years hunting the mountain woods of the Big Sky state with his children, he explained. His wife, Cindy, an “excellent shot herself,” never minded those outings, loving that he was spending quality time with their four kids. Things changed, though. Children grew and moved to attend college, and Cindy exclaimed, “Now that we’re empty-nesters. You’re my hunting buddy and we’re going together!”
That’s how it is with the Montanan. The outdoors and hunting are a special way of life to be preserved, protected and passed on. It’s why he takes his job as senator so seriously.
Big Sky View
Sen. Daines answered several questions and provided an update of what Washington, D.C., policymaking looks like right now amid the coronavirus pandemic. He offered insights into legislation under consideration and how they will affect the firearm industry’s economic footprint, which has a presence in every state.
The CARES Act and Paycheck Protection Program have already been passed and signed by President Donald Trump, providing small businesses financial assistance as they weather the pandemic storm. Sen. Daines described the importance of targeted and focused aid to rural states like Montana, especially to healthcare and frontline workers spread across the vast state.
Sen. Daines also discussed the next legislative package being negotiated by the Senate. He said senators are mindful of the concerns he’s hearing from Montanans, specifically about financial assistance to state and local governments and liability protections for reemerging businesses. Keane agreed, telling members these were, “critical and reasonable protections for industry small businesses against trial lawyers.”
Montana Guns = Big Business
That’s especially true for Montana’s firearm manufacturers, where there’s the highest concentration of gun makers per capita. Montana is home to makers with loyal customers, including Nemo Arms, Falkor Defense, PROOF Research and Montana Precision Rifles, among others. In Montana, these represent more than 2,000 manufacturing and supplier jobs generating $270 million in economic output last year.
Those businesses paid more than $5 million last year in federal excise taxes invested in the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund. That’s part of the Pittman-Robertson Act where taxes paid by firearm and ammunition manufacturers totaled over $13 Billion since 1937 to fund conservation projects.
Sen. Daines discussed Senate efforts on two current conservation bills to put that money to work for hunters and outdoors recreationalists.
“A healthy forest is a managed forest, and forest management protects our animal populations and wildlife habitats,” he explained.
Both are important for Sen. Daines. First among these efforts is the John D. Dingell Conservation, Management and Recreation Act. Sen. Daines explained it is important policy that NSSF supported and Congress was able to enact in a bipartisan way. He also touted the Great American Outdoors Act, S. 3422, which would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and restore national parks by helping address the backlog of maintenance needs.
Sen. Daines explained these are bills that speak to our unique American character. “The one thing that makes America great is our public lands. It sets us apart from all other countries,” he said.
Interstate Transport & Discrimination
Last, Sen. Daines and Keane discussed several challenges facing America’s gun owners, especially when traveling. When planes inevitably are delayed, or worse cancelled, those law-abiding gun owners must claim their firearms and possibly stay over for the night, making them vulnerable for arrest in antigun, anti-reciprocity states.
That’s why he sponsored S. 3139, the Lawful Interstate Transportation of Firearms Act. It’s also why he cosponsored S. 69, the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2019 for national reciprocity to ensure gun rights don’t end at state borders.
Financial and technology discrimination by banking institutions and social media corporations caving to social justice warriors against the firearm businesses is a devasting trend to small and large businesses in the industry.
“This should be chilling for all those who believe in their Constitutional freedoms,” Sen. Daines said. Keane agreed, adding, “The public doesn’t support their issues at the ballot box. And when these folks can’t win legislatively, they go after the businesses they don’t like. It’s the mob mentality.”
It’s also why 19 senators, Sen. Daines included, signed a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, Administrator of the Small Business Administration Jovita Carranza, and Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, warning them big banks could abuse the pandemic relief funds to discriminate against and deny financial services to politically-disfavored industries like the firearm and ammunition industry.
What’s on The Line
Sen. Daines’ reelection got more challenging when Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock announced in the eleventh hour he was running for the seat. Gov. Bullock, who said he would not run for Senate, flip-flopped after a last-minute visit to Montana from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Gov. Bullock also flip-flopped on the Second Amendment and now supports banning modern sporting rifles. It is now a margin-of-error race.
With the pro-firearm, pro-Second Amendment-rights majority so slim, stakes couldn’t be higher. Sen. Daines told industry members concerned about the future just how important their support is. Senate confirmations of judicial appointments, including lifetime Supreme Court nominations, make Senate seats crucial to preserving gun rights. He said the recent gun bans in Canada show what happens when gun control is unchecked. The alternative is unthinkable.
“Not with this president,” Sen. Daines explained. “Not with this [Republican-controlled] Senate. No ifs, ands or buts about it.”
NSSF’s Keane piggybacked off Sen. Daines’ comments and encouraged members to stay engaged and use NSSF’s #GUNVOTE voter-education platform, as well as the +ONE Movement to recruit new hunters and recreational shooters, ensuring the hunting and shooting sports remain popular and these traditions are passed on.
Sen. Daines said he’s putting in the hard work and looks forward to winning reelection, and immediately heading out to bear hunt with his wife, Cindy, in November.
Matt Manda is Manager, Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.