Contact: Kent Keene, Senior Coordinator, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy
Why it Matters: The conversations around firearms and firearm ownership continue to be a polarizing topic in American culture. To protect against legislative threats to firearm ownership, Missouri was one of several states to introduce bills challenging federal laws thought to infringe upon Second Amendment rights. Like Arkansas, Missouri passed legislation along these lines in 2021, and, fortunately, was also able to include provisions that permitted the continuation of the federal excise taxes imposed under the Wildlife Restoration Act, a critical component of the American System of Conservation Funding.
On June 12, Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Mike Parson signed Missouri House Bill 85 (HB 85) into law. This bill, known commonly as the Missouri “Second Amendment Preservation Act” is very similar in nature to the Arkansas Sovereignty Act of 2021 that the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) reported on in early May. Designed largely to protect against infringements upon Second Amendment rights, HB 85’s original language would have unintentionally resulted in the forfeiture of Pittman-Robertson funds. These funds, which are collected through an 11% excise taxes on firearms and ammunition, among other things, have served as a foundation for conservation funding since the Pittman-Robertson Act was passed by Congress in 1937.
This sportsmen-supported tax, along with excise taxes collected through the Dingell-Johnson Act and Wallop-Breaux Amendment, and hunting and fishing license fees, created what is known as the American System of Conservation Funding, a highly successful “user pays – public benefits” framework that is unique to the rest of the world. After realizing that this would unintentionally result in the loss of important conservation funding for the Missouri Department of Revenue, HB 85 was quickly amended in the Senate to exempt the Pittman-Robertson excise tax that funds the Wildlife Restoration Act from the provisions of House Bill 85.
Though the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation did not engage in the conversations around Missouri’s “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” we did have conversations to ensure that the ASCF was considered following the challenges faced in Arkansas earlier this year. While this continues to be a challenging topic, CSF encourages all state legislatures considering the introduction of bills of this nature to take steps to ensure that the excise taxes levied under the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act are exempted from these laws to ensure that the state can continue to receive these federal funds to conserve and enhance the state’s wildlife resources.
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?