Bill Attacking Cherished Pittman-Robertson Act Wildly Off Target

A Georgia Congressman’s plan to scrap a highly regarded excise tax on guns and ammo that has provided $15 billion in federal funding for wildlife conservation and hunting over eight and a half decades is so far off target as to be laughable but must be opposed for how much support it garnered in the country’s capital.


Rep. Andrew Clyde and 57 other Republican cosponsors of HR 8167 want to do away with the venerable Pittman-Robertson Act and reallocate revenues from federal offshore oil and gas leases to fill that gap.

While the prime sponsor argues that the 10 to 11 percent tax “infringes on Americans’ ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights and creates a dangerous opportunity for the government to weaponize taxation to price this unalienable right out of reach for most Americans,” it has actually cemented hunters’ place at the forefront of protecting, conserving and forever perpetuating America’s wildlife, and funds hunter education.

Nobody pulls the load like we do. Absolutely. Nobody. Like I’ve written before, we’re diesel-strength pulling power in a world of Priuses. And we do it willingly and happily, and are GD proud of it.

It’s a badge of honor. A mark of pride.

Clyde et al’s bill is utterly blind to that, and shockingly, willfully partisan.

“I firmly believe that no American should be taxed on their enumerated rights, which is why I intend to stop the Left’s tyranny in its tracks by eliminating the federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition,” states Clyde in a press release.

Since 1937, PR taxes have been supported by hunters, nurtured by hunters, trumpeted by hunters, and from on high – left, right, middle, all over the damn political spectrum – as something akin to America’s Second Best Idea Ever, next to the national parks.

There’s even a book about it, How Sportsmen Saved the World: The Unsung Conservation Efforts of Hunters and Anglers, by E. Donnall Thomas, who touches on the fishing side of the funding equation via the Dingell-Johnson Act.

Earlier this year the Department of Interior disbursed an annual record of $1.5 billion in PR, DJ and Wallop-Breaux (excise taxes on boat fuel) revenues to state fish and wildlife agencies. They’ve received $25.5 billion over the decades of the programs – the lion’s share, $15 billion, from Pittman-Robertson.

To receive the money, states have to match it with hunting and fishing license revenues. Part of the deal is that state legislators and governors cannot divert ANY OF IT to ANY. THING. ELSE. besides fish and wildlife.

A couple years ago, a WDFW honcho told me that license sales and federal excise taxes and state matches represent one-third of the agency’s budget, a “significant contribution” for a relatively small part of the state population. By comparison, everyone else contributes indirectly, passively.

As you can imagine, far more well-spoken hunters are pushing back on Clyde’s idea.

“The irony of this whole thing—to say it’s unconstitutional to tax something that is a stated right in the Constitution – is that hunters asked for [the Pittman-Robertson Act] in the 1930s, and have loved it ever since,” Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, told Outdoor Life. “You name it, stuff that we [hunters and gun owners] care about has been funded by this. The notion that it’s somehow an infringement on rights is absolutely ludicrous.”

“This bill is not only offensive to conservation-minded companies in the hunting and shooting sports industry that oppose such a careless waste of time in Congress,” John Gale of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers told Gear Junkie, “it’s an affront to hunters and recreational shooters that proudly support the legacy of Pittman-Robertson – legislation that the hunting community and gun industry leaders advocated for in the first place to give back to the wildlife resources that are the foundation of our cherished outdoor traditions.”

“For 85 years sportsmen in this country have willingly paid to support conservation in this country, which has become crown jewel of wildlife management and the model that the rest of the world has embraced,” said Todd Adkins, vice president of government affairs for Sportsmen’s Alliance, in a press release. “The RETURN Act [Repealing Excise Tax on Unalienable Rights Now] will gut wildlife management in this country and destroy the North American Model of Conservation.”

Apparently to get out ahead of Clyde’s bill – or at least the cancerous idea as it grew – 41 of the nation’s absolute cream of the crop conservation organizations sent Congress a letter warning:

“(Generating) all Pittman- Robertson funding from alternative sources would negatively impact our community’s unique relationship with state fish and wildlife agencies. Without the financial contributions of sportsmen and women and sporting manufacturers, the seat held at the decision-making table for hunters and recreational shooters may be lost. We respectfully request that you take these points into consideration before introducing or supporting legislation that would alter the status quo and may result in multiple unintended consequences.”

It was signed by the likes of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, BHA, Boone and Crockett Club, Ducks Unlimited, Mule Deer Foundation, National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Pope & Young Club, Quail Forever, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Sportmen’s Alliance, TRCP and Wild Sheep Foundation, among others.

“The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies is opposed to this legislation, which ignores the will of sportsmen and women, industry groups, and the conservation community at large. Wildlife in America faces enough challenges already; the last thing our species need is a threat to repeal the funds that state agencies use to support them,” added AFWA in a mid-July press release.

While Cyde’s HR 8167 drew nine cosponsors from Texas, six from Georgia, five from Florida and three from Arizona, Illinois and Tennessee each, among other states, I’m happy to see that by and large the Northwest delegation didn’t sign on.

I know for fact I wouldn’t want to have my name within eight and a half decades of this horrible bill attacking one of our world’s most cherished institutions.