April 12, 2021

California Tax Bill Takes Aim at Recreational Shooters and Hunters

Contact: Keely Hopkins, Pacific States Assistant Manager


Why it matters: California’s law-abiding hunters and shooters have long played a vital role in funding conservation and wildlife management efforts throughout the state. Under the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a unique “user pays – public benefits” structure, California’s sportsmen and women generate tens of millions of dollars each year for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. These funds are generated through license sales and an 11% federal excise tax on sporting-related goods, including firearms and ammunition. Decreased firearm and ammunition purchases that result from additional taxes and costs would have a negative impact on conservation funding in the state.  

Each year, California’s sportsmen and women contribute tens of millions of dollars to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, providing vital revenue to help carry out their mission of managing the state’s diverse fish and wildlife, and the habitats upon which they depend. These funds are generated through fishing and hunting license sales, and through the purchase of sporting-related goods. Under the Pittman-Robertson Act, California’s hunters and recreational shooters pay an 11% excise tax on all firearm and ammunition purchases, which in turn funds a large portion of the state’s wildlife management, conservation, and research efforts.

On April 6, the California Assembly Public Safety Committee advanced AB 1223, which would impose a $25 tax on all firearm purchases in the state, along with a “yet to be determined” tax on all ammunition sales. Under AB 1223, the state’s law-abiding hunters and recreational shooters would face taxes for engaging in their lawful outdoor pursuits, while the additional costs would deter participation and eventually hurt conservation funding through decreased firearm and ammunition purchases. If passed, AB 1223 would place an additional tax on top of the existing taxes, thereby driving up the costs of these goods, reducing their sales, and in turn, reducing the conservation funding from which all California residents enjoy. Despite being paid for by hunters and recreational shooters, none of the tax revenue generated under AB 1223 would go toward conservation efforts, but would instead be used for criminal violence programs under the California Violence Intervention & Prevention fund.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation testified against AB 1223 at the Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing and will continue to work with partner organizations in opposition to the bill as it moves forward through the legislative process.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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