Georgia Representative Andrew Clyde has introduced a bill to dismantle the Robinson-Pittman Act, which for 85 years has been the backbone of state wildlife management funding. The Act establishes an 11% excise tax on long guns (rifles and shotguns) and a 10% tax on handguns. The resulting funds are distributed to the states on a formula based in part on the number of hunting licenses they sell. Representative Clyde, who owns a gun store and uses an AR 15 on his campaign signs, has decided it is unconstitutional, and 57 Republican Congressman agree with him. Needless to say, state wildlife agencies are very concerned.
Predictably, Clyde demagogues his bill as a blow against “the Left’s tyranny.”
As an aside, there has been a move to extend the tax to non-shooting and hunting sporting goods – the sort of things sold by REI and other outdoor recreation stores. For years, hunters have provided all the funding for state management activities, but it is no secret that hunting is declining. Extending the tax to these other sporting goods would provide more funds and more fairness to the system, as the hikers and birders and other folks have basically been getting a free ride for 85 years. To their shame, the outdoor recreation industry has so far successfully resisted this effort.
Here’s a description of how the funding works from the Mississippi wildlife agency, which notes that Robinson-Pittman has provided $7 billion for wildlife management since it’s inception. And it costs the general public nothing.
There’s an article titled “Bill Could Threaten Wildlife Funding” on the Georgia Outdoor News website that details some of the reaction from our wildlife management professionals, but I was unable to link to it.