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April 5, 2023

Bipartisan Support for Early Hunting Education, Traditions Still Alive

By Larry Keane

Firearm safety doesn’t have to be the partisan issue that too many, unfortunately, make it out to be. Just ask U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska).

“I just appreciate the opportunity to put a plug in for the many, many, many Americans who are responsible gun owners,” Congresswoman Peltola said. “You look at some of the tragedies that are occurring, and those aren’t hunters, those aren’t kids that have grown up with hunting and the good values that, I think, hunting and hunting families provide.”

Despite President Joe Biden’s repeated off-based talking points about the firearm industry, or how loudly national gun control groups shout for more gun control, it’s the criminals that don’t follow the laws and aren’t held accountable for their crimes.

Firearms and The Last Frontier

Rep. Peltola offered those comments at a House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee hearing.

“So I just … like the opportunity to give a plug for Second Amendment rights and good values,” Rep. Peltola concluded.

The topic was the Pittman-Robertson Act and how it’s the firearm and ammunition industry that contributes to conservation projects and wildlife management in the states. Gun and ammunition manufacturers pay excise taxes into the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund and are supported by hunters and recreational shooters when they purchase firearms and ammunition. To date firearm and ammunition manufacturers have paid over $25.38 billion into the fund since its inception in 1937, when adjusted for inflation.

Alaskans know a thing or two about firearms and Rep. Peltola now speaks as their voice in Congress after the passing of long-time Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young a year ago. Since 2020, more than 1,731,000 firearms were purchased by Alaskans, according to NSSF adjusted-NICS data. Industry surveys also suggest between 30-40 percent of those buyers are first-time gun owners and about 30 percent are women.

Rep. Peltola’s praise for early hunter education and the values and traditions that go along with it are common in the most northern state. Gov. Mike Dunleavy attended SHOT Show® in 2022, offering his support for the firearm industry and encouraging firearm manufacturers to make Alaska home. The state is already home to more than 1,100 jobs with approximately $122 million in economic impact. That firearm industry footprint places Alaska in the Top Ten of states for both Growth in Economic Output, as well as Federal Excise Taxes generated, per capita.

The Kids Are Alright

Rep. Peltola’s support for firearm training and education is welcomed, and a stark contrast to another state further south. In California, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom attacked organizations or businesses that even mentioned youth hunting or recreational shooting activities.

In a state where hunters have already long been the target of an anti-hunting, anti-science legislature, Gov. Newsom forced through AB 2571 that imposes $25,000 civil fines on “firearm industry members” for advertising “any firearms-related product” in a way that could be seen as “appealing to minors.”

The consequences were quickly felt. The California State High School Clay Target League shuttered. “As a school-based activity serving students from 6th-12th grade, these provisions serve to outlaw the very name and existence of the California State High School Clay Target League,” the group said.

League president John Nelson criticized the governor. “The League is the safest sport in high school. Over 1,500 schools across the nation have approved our program. Hundreds of thousands of students have participated, and there has never been an accident or injury,” Nelson told media.

Empire State Example

Far across the country from Alaska and California, New York, for all its own gun control follies, is another example of how youth firearm education and training is beneficial. The Democratic legislature implemented a special youth hunting season and it has completed two of the three pilot years. If critics of the program had pause or reservations, New York youth hunters demonstrated they shouldn’t.

Over 9,400 12-and 13-year-old hunters in New York participated during the recently completed youth season. The data from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, as well as other media reports about New York hunters’ exemplary record of safe hunting, made clear there is no “inherent danger” with youth hunting, as some feared.

“DEC’s review of data collected shows youth hunters followed safety guidelines and showed both respect for wildlife and their fellow hunters while afield. I’m proud to see that New York’s environment is in good hands with this next generation of environmental stewards,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said.

Keeping firearms out of the hands of those who should not possess them is critical to ensuring communities are safe. It is just as important as holding criminals accountable. One thing is clear to anyone who examines the data – properly supervised youth involvement in hunting traditions and recreational shooting activities that teach safe and responsible firearm handling is critical for future generations.

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