Hunters, recreational shooters, and firearms, archery, and ammunition manufacturers are the largest financial supporters of wildlife conservation throughout the United States having contributed nearly $12 billion to habitat conservation, recreational shooting and wildlife management through Pittman-Robertson excise tax payments since the program’s inception. Despite the unqualified success of this historic “user-pay, public-benefit” system, Pittman-Robertson funds have not always been administered in a manner that encourages the creation of recreational shooting opportunities. As a result, opportunities for both recreational and competitive shooting have declined significantly in recent years. To address this problem, a bipartisan coalition in Congress has introduced the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act (H.R. 788 / S. 593), legislation that addresses these declines by providing states with more flexibility in their use of Pittman-Robertson funds to develop and improve public shooting ranges.
Since the passage of the Pittman-Robertson excise tax in 1937, hunters and shooters have generated billions for wildlife conservation through the purchase of firearms and ammunition. Today, the correlation between target shooters and conservation funding is especially pronounced, with products purchased for recreational shooting generating approximately 80% of the proceeds collected through Pittman-Robertson. Under the formula that dictates how these revenues are distributed to state fish and wildlife agencies, states are also permitted to use some of these funds for hunter education as well as the construction and enhancement of public shooting ranges. This program requires states to provide 25 percent of the funds needed to undertake a shooting range project with revenue generated from other sources. Unfortunately, many states have had found it difficult to produce these matching funds, in some cases, rendering federal funds unused.
The Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act addresses this issue by allowing states to generate matching funds over the course of five years – current law dictates that funds cannot be carried over for more than two years – and reduces the matching requirement from 25 percent to 10 percent. These changes would provide state fish and wildlife agencies with added flexibility to generate funds for range construction or improvement over time with the goal of giving them the resources needed to provide the public with more opportunities to embrace hunting and shooting sports and support the “user pay, public benefit” wildlife conservation model. In addition, the legislation facilitates increased cooperation between state and federal agencies for the maintenance of shooting ranges on federal lands and also limits frivolous lawsuits that could erode the ability to use federal lands for target practice in areas where existing regulations allow the activity to take place.
In February 2017, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Member Congressman Duncan Hunter (CA) joined 23 original bipartisan cosponsors in introducing H.R. 788, the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act of 2017 in the House of Representatives where it has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Judiciary Committee.
In March 2017, CSC Vice-Chair Senator Heidi Heitkamp (ND) joined fellow CSC members Senators Michael Bennet (CO), John Boozman (AR) and Shelley Moore Capito (WV) in introducing S. 593, the Senate’s version of the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act of 2017. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
In March 2017, CSC members Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Martin Heinrich (NM) introduced S. 733, the Sportsmen’s Act. Amongst other bipartisan provisions aimed at furthering our nation’s outdoor heritage, the bill includes language that the mirrors the standalone Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act bills that have been introduced in both the House and Senate. The following June, S. 733 was passed by the Senate Natural Resources and placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar.
In June 2017, CSC members Senators John Barrasso (WY), Tammy Baldwin (WI), John Boozman (AR) and Shelley Moor Capito (WV) introduced S. 1514, the HELP for Wildlife Act, a package that includes the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act. On October 5, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works passed the bill with a bipartisan vote.
In September 2017, CSC Co-Chairs Congressmen Jeff Duncan (SC) and Gene Green (TX) introduced H.R. 3668, the SHARE Act along with Vice-Chair Austin Scott (GA). Amongst other bipartisan provisions aimed at furthering our nation’s outdoor heritage, the bill includes language that the mirrors the standalone Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act bills that have been introduced in both the House and Senate. Later that month, H.R. 3668 was passed by the House Natural Resources Committee.
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