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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that the agency was distributing $1.3 billion to the states to fund wildlife conservation, public land access, recreational shooting range construction and improvement and hunter education. That’s a figure that firearm and ammunition manufacturers are proud of – especially since this industry paid the overwhelming majority of those funds – over $944 million.

The total funds are collected from the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson excise taxes. Those are the taxes paid by manufacturers on the products they produce for recreational shooting and hunting firearms and ammunition, archery and angling equipment. In the case of firearm and ammunition manufacturers, that tax is paid for every firearm and box of ammunition produced. That’s an 11 percent tax on all long guns and ammunition and a 10 percent tax on handguns.  Those taxes added up to $944,007,497 for 2023.

That means nearly three quarters of the conservation dollars going back to the states were derived from the taxes paid by firearm and ammunition makers. Since the inception of the tax in 1937, firearm and ammunition manufacturers have paid over $25 billion when adjusted for inflation. That’s a hefty price tag, to be sure. Some would wonder why an industry would be glad to pay a tax bill of that size.

Why Pay?

The answer is actually rather easy. It’s a down payment on the abundant wildlife, habitat and safe public shooting facilities that future hunters and recreational shooters will need. When the tax was started in 1937, wildlife in North America was in dire straits. Rocky Mountain elk were few – just an estimated 41,000 roamed the landscape. Whitetail deer numbered just half a million across America. Wild turkeys were teetering at just 100,000 and only an estimated 12,000 pronghorn antelope ran across the plains. Waterfowl were few in America’s wetlands.

Today, thanks to the investments made in wildlife conservation and habitat from funds like the Pittman-Robertson excise taxes, there’s a complete turnabout. More than a million Rocky Mountain elk bugle and states as far east as Virginia have actually opened limited hunting seasons for recovering populations. Over 32 million Whitetail deer live across America. Wild turkeys are in excess of 7 million with pronghorn antelope numbering 1.1 million. Waterfowl are in excess of 44 million, from coast-to-coast.

The USFWS has distributed $28 billion to date through annual apportionments. State and territorial fish and wildlife agencies have contributed approximately $9 billion in investments throughout the program’s history. Through these combined funds, agencies have supported the annual stocking of over 1 billion fish, managed and monitored over 500 species of wild mammals and birds, provided hunter education to millions of students and constructed or renovated over 800 target ranges.

Eligible states, commonwealths and territories use this money to fund professional biologists, offer education and safety programs, operate fish and wildlife health labs, purchase, operate and maintain more than 35 million acres of land open to hunting and angling and provide access at over 9,000 locations nationally for community fishing opportunities.

The firearm industry is proud to know that the overwhelming majority of the conservation dollars being re-invested back to state wildlife conservation, range construction and hunter education is derived from the Pittman-Robertson excise taxes paid by the firearm and ammunition industry.

Rise of the Conservationist-Target Shooter

That conservation heritage is supported by hunters and recreational target shooters that purchase firearms and ammunition. More likely than not, that cost burden is being supported by recreational target shooters and gun owners who are not purchasing firearms for hunting for wild game. Still, there’s a sense of pride among those who don’t hunt in knowing that they’re supporting companies that are conserving the sustainable wildlife all Americans can enjoy.

survey conducted by Responsive Management, in partnership with the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA), found that 86 percent of gun owners and recreational target marksmen and women who don’t hunt support the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program.

Over time, recreational target shooting has grown in popularity as a sport, even as hunting numbers have waned in comparison with population growth across America. That means today’s wildlife conservation efforts are increasingly funded by recreational target shooters and everyday gun owners.

That support is more than a passing thought to non-hunting gun owners and recreational target shooters. Of the 86 percent that indicated they supported the excise tax, 52 percent – over half – responded with strong support to the survey. Just three percent were opposed to the tax and another 12 percent were neutral.

Later questions in the survey revealed that 9 out of 10 non-hunters were proud to support conservation investments and 8 out of 10 non-hunters feel connected to wildlife and conservation.

This conservation investment led by the firearm and ammunition manufacturers ensures all Americans are able to enjoy access to public lands, abundant wildlife, healthy habitats for wildlife to thrive and hunter education and firearm safety programs.  This investment will ensure the next generation of America’s hunter-conservationists are able to pass along this heritage to generations to come. There is no mistaking the firearm and ammunition industry’s commitment to conservation. This is in the DNA of our entire industry.

—Joe Bartozzi, courtesy of NSSF

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  1. I don’t hunt,fish or meander in the wilderness very often. How about .gov maintain the outdoors another way?!? Dims hate us & our gats…

    • I really hate this abomination of a tax, and I am very angry that TTAG (at the apparent direction of the NSSF) keeps publishing stupid propaganda articles supporting it. This has to be about the fourth article I’ve seen supporting this unconstitutional tax.

      We are taxed every which way from Sunday. Half our income goes to freakin taxes. There is plenty of money for conservation from other sources. I see no reason at all for taxing defensive firearm ammo (or target shooting ammo) to fund conservation.

      • “There is plenty of money for conservation from other sources.

        Please name them.

        • Tags, licenses, and park admittance, for three. I’m certain you could drum up more that don’t involve those who don’t feel the need to pay for tags, licenses, or park attendance or want game wardens lurking on people’s property without their knowledge.

      • Tags. Issued by the State? I do know that in California deer tags are checked by a State Game Warden. I know that a fishing license is strictly State, in California and and in Oregon. Helps pay for the State Fish Hatcheries. Park Admission could range from County to State to any of the Federal outfits. Those user fees are ‘earmarked’ for local use: wages, vehicles and other equipment, campground maintenance, and always seem to fall short.

        I don’t know if Game Wardens have a special authority to enter private property without a warrant. I’ve never asked.

        • Now I do know. From an article at World Net Daily three minutes ago:

          While many assume that the U.S. Constitution protects property from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” a Supreme Court decision from a century back says private land is not included.

          It’s called the “open fields” doctrine and agents use it to enter property whenever they want.

          The “open fields” ideology is used by not just game wardens but also police, inspectors, code enforcement officers, immigration officers and others.

  2. I’m one of those recreational target shooters and am happy to know that some of the money I spend is going to conservation. I gave up hunting long ago but fully support those that do.

  3. The author is correct. Some of us don’t mind paying that tax. Even if I didn’t hunt and fish. Non-game species benefit also. As I type this I’m sitting by the “mill pond” at the farm reading After America by Mark Steyn. A little earlier I heard a bull gator bellowing. A red tail hawk flew by several times screeching. I’ve seen snowy egrets and blue herons today. Had a picnic lunch sitting on the tailgate. Yeah, I have no problem paying for that.

    • You paid for it with your income tax.
      You paid for it again with your property tax.
      You paid for it once more with your sales tax.

      Oh, I forgot, the government flushed that money down the toilet on stupid and often evil stuff. Now they have to have a special tax on guns and ammo to fund conservation.

  4. When Clinton tried to raid the Pittman-Robertson funds in the 1990’s he was shat upon from a significant altitude. It was pointed out to him that these were not general funds that he could tap into. He got the message, loud and clear.

  5. Gun Control Activists Want Utah’s Governor to Veto Bill Funding Firearm Training for Teachers. (Or could be titled…Gun Control Activists Want Utah’s Governor to Veto Bill Funding Firearm Training for Teachers Because Gun Control Activists Want A Higher Body Count. …. seriously, these sick demented delusional gun control activist do every thing they can to facilitate injury and death. Parents and teachers either want the sick virtue signaling tyranny these gun control activist want your kids subjected to…or you want them to have a chance to live when a mentally ill killer facilitated by the gun control activist shows up. …. Let teachers and school staff be armed.)

  6. I mind paying it. First the government loudly proclaims my guns are weapons of war then taxes them like it’s all about hunting.

    • Cooter, when the tax was levied it was all about hunting, fishing and shooting. At the time you could walk into a Western Auto and buy a Thompson SMG if they had one in stock. This “weapons of war” is something invented by the left.

  7. BS.

    This is unconstitutional. They can’t tax a right -even to fund stupid eco wildlife crap.

    • Doggone it, you’re right.
      That’s why poll taxes (taxes on voting) are unconstitutional.
      If the government instituted a new tax on voting, but said, “Don’t worry, this poll tax will be used only towards building and maintaining polling places and voting booths, printing ballots, tabulating ballots, and other election expenses,” it would still be an unconstitutional poll tax.
      But somehow we tolerate taxes on the right to keep and bear arms!
      There should be no taxes on guns or ammo, and no charge for gun permits, CCW permits (in the states that require them), or NICS checks, just as there are no taxes on voting and no taxes on churches (even the churches that are billion-dollar corporations, and there are a couple of those. Google “Corporation of the President of the Church” and you’ll see a multi-billion-dollar church corporation that is (AFAIK) tax-exempt).

    • Exactly, not to mention the fact that e.g. game law enforcement is such an infinitesimal fraction of total government expenditure that everyone claiming there would be dire (or any) consequences for nature without this tax are either Dacian-level disingenuous, or bacteria-level stupid.

      Speaking of which, every tax (and every other penny) a manufacturer “pays” is passed along to the customer, or the manufacturer immediately goes out of business.

    • A billion dollar infringement.
      If you want to raise money for conservation do what we did in Missouri, pass a general sales tax for it. Specific taxes on arms and essentials are infringements. If its a tax on arms and ammunition why don’t they build ranges & support training to shoot?

      • They do. Partial:

        “The distribution of the funds is
        set by a formula. First, $8 million
        is utilized for Enhanced Hunter
        Education programs, including the
        construction or maintenance of
        public target ranges. Second, $3
        million is set aside for projects that
        require cooperation among the
        states. Third, one-half of the excise
        tax collected on handguns are set
        aside for Basic Hunter Education
        programs. In most cases, states must
        match at least 25% of a project’s costs”

        It’s a two page .pdf, well worth reading. Note:

  8. As long as the money isn’t going to suits and to elect democRats and is going to forest mangement, lakes, birds, animals, Smokey the Bear, etc. I am not going to complain too much.

  9. Nikita, it isn’t a tax on our rights. It’s a tax on an intimate object. Remember, it includes fishing and archery equipment too. I’m not a constitutional scholar, but I don’t think the founding fathers intended for those to be covered by 2A. If you don’t want to pay the tax it’s not a problem. Build your own firearms instead of paying someone else to do it for you.

    • The fishing part is simply false. Everything singled out by Pittman-Robertson for taxation is an arm, and an enumerated right.

      Bows were the traditional arms of the English yeoman. Winston Churchill wrote: “The War Office has among its records a treatise written during the peace after Waterloo by a general officer of long experience in the Napoleonic wars recommending that muskets should be discarded in favour of the long-bow on account of its superior accuracy, rapid discharge, and effective range.” Benjamin Franklin is said to have had similar ideas; such proposals failed only because longbows’ draw weight required rigorous physical training, as opposed to simple memorization of musket drill.

      The Founders were passionate about history, especially those golden moments where free citizens stood against tyranny. The idea that they didn’t care about protecting the means by which free English citizen-soldiers had wiped out larger professional armies is absurd.

    • Gotta agree with Debbie. Corporations don’t pay effectively any taxes. The consumers of their goods/service pay the tax. I know it’s fun to hate on the corporations and think you’re really sticking it to the man when you tax them higher but that’s not how it works. It plays well on the news though.

      • Cooter, I agree with her also. Of course the tax is passed on to the consumer. So are all other consumer taxes. What’s the point? Don’t want to pay the tax? Don’t buy the product. Make it yourself. Of course, refining gasoline may be more difficult than building a firearm.

        • Gadsen,
          You are a good guy, but you are really wrong here, and are making some very poor and deeply flawed arguments.

  10. I don’t support the tax, and I shoot and hunt and fish. I don’t support any gov’t tax schemes because they all get abused. The money rarely ends up where it’s supposed to go and it raises the costs to all of us. I hunt in SC, NC and rarely in GA. I live in GA and I hunt here the least. NC and SC charge exorbitant rates for licenses and tags. 30 years ago in SC you could kill as many deer in a season as you wanted. There were no tags. And the population is still thriving today with less hunters in the field. Now they tag (pun intended) you for a hunting license, big game permit and for each tag. What used to cost very little is burdened by massive increases that have driven hunters to the edge of extinction. These high fees and taxes do not benefit us in the way this article likes to think. This article is literally taking the smoke they blow up our asses and calling it air freshener. I spend about $300 to hunt in SC and a tad more in NC. An in state license is what, $20? So out of state people pay 15 times the cost, or more and they still need more money by taxing guns and ammo?!? Sorry, not buying it. All these overeducated wildlife biologists claim that deer populations are down, yet the number of dead deer from collisions on the road rises each year. I see the same basic number of deer every year, which doesn’t support the estimates they provide. In the last couple years, I’ve seen more deer in NC than the previous 5 years. Yet they biologists keep claiming populations are shrinking and institute tighter limits and increase costs. I for one am tired of bearing the costs of gov’t bureaucracy that doesn’t work.

    • B, I’ve hunted SC for a long time. A friend owns about 1000 acres up there. Yeah, out of stay licenses are expensive. Everywhere. If I couldn’t afford one I wouldn’t hunt out of state. BTW, I’ve hunted FL, GA, AL MS, LA and MO on a regular basis. Large game, turkey and waterfowl. Besides the license there’s the stamps. Cost of doing business. If it ever gets to be too much I’ll become a rock hound.

      • It’s not that I can’t afford it. I can. But there are a lot of people who would be hunters that really can’t. The $350 or more they charge (and in SC it is $50 per buck tag up to two, $10 per doe tag up to 4) is as much as some folks make in a week and they don’t have that kind of wiggle room in their budgets. Hunting is a sport that is dying a slow death, like by a 1000 papercuts. The papercuts being more bureaucracy and rules and fees that people are just tired of being milked for. I can tell you that I learned how to game the NC system. Their license is good for 1 calendar year. This year I went, bought my license and hunted the 2nd week of November. Next year I will hunt the first week of November. That cuts the rate I pay in half because I only hunt in NC for one week a year. I could hunt their more, but my family’s property is about 7 hours from where I live and it’s just not feasible for me to spend two days on the road to hunt one for weekend trips. So due to their greed and high prices, I found the way to cut my cost in half by just moving my trip by one week. Next year I won’t pay anything. The following year I will do the same. All of that will be coming to an end soon though, as my uncle who lives there is getting on up there in age and his health isn’t great. It’s a shame as I love going up there and seeing him and spending a week in the woods on his various properties. My uncle in SC has several good properties as well, but I hunt there more often and can’t game that system in the same way. If they’d stop being so greedy, they’d probably see higher numbers of hunters and more revenue. People don’t like getting ripped off.

  11. Thumb Tax or Thumb Screws.
    That’s really not that much money divied out across the entire Nation.
    Public Shuting ranges would be nice. Well but then some nutzoid killer would fck that all up too.
    It’s why we can’t have nice things.
    Hey, I know, A shuting range where you get to shute nutziods, and then later have a nice Barbecue.
    Nutzoid mountain oysters, ah Nuts

  12. Simply don’t buy it. The current administration lies to us daily. Just another scam to make us spend money to exercise our god given rights.

  13. An Ohio appeals court vacated part of a lower court order that had banned an individual from possessing firearms for a year. Appeals court found lower court order to violate law. Mark Smith Four Boxes Diner discusses the opinion and its potential implications on 2A rights.

  14. “The One Tax Most Gun Owners Don’t Mind Paying”

    BS 1. ANYTHING created under the reign of FDR is BS 2. Same for anything the Senator Dingleberry ever did.

    Distribute $z. Can bet that in reality the feds extract multiple of that and consume much in swamp processes. Passed out to leftwing bunny huggers/prog voters.

    How much goes to expanding range construction and availability to the people from who the $ are extracted? diddly quate

  15. No, I do not support any tax. Keep track on how much you actually pay in taxes in a month and you will understand why.

  16. This is a completely unconstitutional tax on our Second Amendment rights. It doesn’t matter if it’s for a good cause. You cannot say we’re gonna charge a sales tax of 5% on books, but if it’s a Bible or newspaper it’s 10%; you cannot tax professional services transactions at 10%, but if it’s a criminal defense lawyer tax that at 15%, etc. I have an idea – why don’t we tax people to vote? Now if they wanted to collect funds for public lands and wildlife management through general taxes or user fees on public lands, that’s different.

    • This tax was not imposed by the government but was first proposed by hunters to support wildlife conservation. There is a similar 11% excise tax on fishing equipment to support fisheries.

  17. There are some things I do not mind paying a tax for.
    Like property taxes that pay for public schools.
    Unfortunately for what we are paying for I would expect top class, students with 90% or better proficiency in reading, writing, math etc.
    Rather we get dumbed down students and indoctrination.
    In this case, I do not mind paying this tax as it comes back around to benefit the shooting sports community and wildlife conservation.

    • Ducks Unlimited is a land grab for the rich. Here we used to have a state game refuge, were you could hunt and fish, Ducks Unlimited got more involved and now they’ve gated off all the good fishing spots.
      Why? Because the state said people was fcking up their high priced pump station to fill the duck ponds. That’s what they said, however it’s just the DU advocates don’t want riff raff on their private public land.
      We escaped England but not the Kings.

  18. A Cautionary Tale of Pittman-Robertson Abuse by a politician!

    I am in favor of Pittman-Robertson, but I once Pittman-Robertson Money wasted when Joe Manchin rushed development of a range for a Photo OP for his second Gubenatorial run. He got the photo OP, but the range was poorly oriented and in a bad place. Overshoots ended up in a barn a couple of miles away so it was closed temporarily and then reopened with modifications. It was near a University and soon, although not well known, somebody used it to test a remotely detonated bomb. It was closed by an anti gun wildlife manager in charge who closed it until further notice. Further notice is sometime after he retires!

  19. Poll taxes would keep welfare voters away from voting for more welfare. Which would be absolutely great. But still unconstitutional. It’s not a right if it’s taxed, it’s a privilege of the wealthy.

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