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. Efforts to restrict the sportsmen’s community from recruiting and activating the next generation of hunters and recreational shooters will have far-reaching consequences on the very funding structure that underwrites the conservation of California’s wildlife and their habitats.
- On October 21, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), Sportsmen’s Alliance, and Safari Club International filed a motion for preliminary injunction in federal district court to protect the free speech rights of hunting, shooting, and conservation organizations in the state.
- AB 2571, which was passed by the legislature earlier this year and signed into law by Governor Newsom on June 30, prohibits the “marketing” of firearms to minors, but the broadly written language cast a wide net over many communications and imposes fines of $25,000 per impression or occurrence of the prohibited communication.
- The motion for preliminary injunction is part of the coalition’s ongoing federal lawsuit that seeks to strike down AB 2571 for violations of well-established and constitutionally protected rights under the 1st, 5th and 14th amendments.
In an effort to block the implementation of AB 2571 and to protect the free speech rights of hunting, shooting and conservation organizations in California, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Sportsmen’s Alliance, and Safari Club International have filed a motion for preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. This request is part of the coalition’s ongoing lawsuit to strike down AB 2571 in its entirety for violating 1st, 5th, and 14th amendment rights.
Purported as bill to prohibit advertising firearms to minors, the broadly written language of AB 2571, which was signed into law by Governor Newsom on June 30, casts a wide net over communications that promote the use of firearms by a member of the “firearm industry.” The bill defines “firearm industry” broadly to include organizations formed for the purpose of “… promoting, encouraging, or advocating for the purchase, use, or ownership of firearm-related products”, encompassing many hunting and conservation organizations that routinely communicate on firearm-related topics. Since the law has taken effect, many organizations have ceased communications that showcase or illustrate the use of firearms by youth, including social media, magazine articles, videos, and more, because of uncertainty over the law and the steep $25,000 fine per occurrence of any of these prohibited communications that may portray firearms as “attractive to minors”.
In addition to the free speech violations of AB 2571, the sportsmen’s community is also rightly concerned about the impact these restrictions will have on R3 efforts. Participation in hunting in California has been declining over the last several decades, which has resulted in decreased funding for conservation and wildlife management efforts through 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 through license and tags sales, and also through an excise tax paid on firearm and ammunition purchases under the Pittman-Robertson Act. To combat these declining numbers, the state wildlife agency, conservation organizations, and hunting organizations have all invested heavily in R3 efforts and continue to identify strategies to increase participation in outdoor activities. AB 2571 threatens these efforts by significantly impacting the sporting-conservation community’s ability to effectively recruit and educate the next generation of sportsmen and women, thereby also threatening the funding structure that underwrites the conservation of California’s wildlife and their habitats.