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May 2, 2019

Range Bill a Win for Industry, Recreational Shooters and Conservation

By Larry Keane

This is how Congress should work. The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1222, the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act, referred to as the “Range Bill.” The bill’s passage means legislation that will make it easier for state wildlife and resource management agencies to have greater flexibility to use Pittman-Robertson funds to build more and improve existing recreational shooting ranges.

It’s a bill that’s been considered for more than a decade, introduced as 29 separate numbered bills and included in 15 expansive legislative packages. For reasons unrelated making it easier to build new public gun ranges, the bill always failed. Sometimes right at the finish line. The most frustrating part was the legislation always had broad bipartisan support.

This week, though, Congress put aside differences and with a voice vote, passed the bill. Since it’s virtually identical to a U.S. Senate bill of the same name, S. 94, which the Senate already passed earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) used Senate rules to deem the bill passed when it comes back to the Senate’s Clerks Office. That means it is headed to the White House to be signed into law.

How Does it Work?

Here’s what the bill will do. The legislation would give the states more flexibility in how they can use their Pittman Robertson allocation to pay for the construction of new ranges and expansion or improvements to existing ones. It would also give states more time to complete these projects before funds would be required to be returned to the U.S. Treasury. States would now be only required to have a 10 percent down payment for these projects instead of the currently required 25 percent.

In simple terms, if a state wildlife agency decides to build a new recreational shooting range that cost $1 million, the state would only need to apply $100,000 of state funds to access the remaining $900,000 from Pittman-Robertson funds, instead of the $250,000 down payment currently required. It would also give states up to five years to use those funds, which is crucial when navigating the approvals for acquiring lands, permits and approvals for projects.

How Does It Help?

Here’s what it means for gun owners. The National Shooting Sports Foundation knows that access is one of the biggest obstacles for hunters and recreational shooters. Many want to get started in the sports, but don’t know where they can go. This will help alleviate that by making it easier for states to create more accessible and safe ranges. It will mean more places for firearm safety education training and for hunters to sight in their firearm for the hunting season.

Here’s what it means for the firearms industry. Pittman-Robertson funds are derived from an excise tax on the production of firearms and ammunition. Manufacturers pay this tax before the guns, bullets and shotshells hit the market. They’ve been doing this since 1937 and so far, they’ve paid $12.1 billion dollars. With more access to ranges, NSSF believes more people will be able to participate, which means more ammunition, and maybe a few more guns, are sold to new recreational shooters, or existing shooters who discover new aspects of the sport in which to participate.

Here’s what it means for conservation. Pittman-Robertson funds much more than help the construction of new ranges. These are the funds that drive wildlife restoration and conservation programs. They fund field studies of ducks, deer and bear and everything in between. These funds aid in acquiring more land set aside for conservation and habitat restoration. So far, the track record is pretty good. Wildlife was at critical-lows when the funds were created by Congress in 1937. Today, wildlife is abundant for hunters and nonhunters alike, because of money paid by firearms and ammunition makers.

It’s been a long, strange and winding trail to get here. The firearms industry is incredibly thankful to the Congressmen and women and the Senators who fought year-after-year to make this reality. Mostly, we’re excited to see states start breaking ground and cutting ribbons on new public ranges coming to a place near you.

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Tags: Pittman-Robertson Public Range Public Shooting Range recreational shooting Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act target shooting wildlife conservation

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