Back in 1937, in the heart of the Depression and the Dust Bowl, America looked around itself and realized that our wild spaces were in serious trouble. Nobody had much money back then, but everyone agreed that we needed to do a better job of conserving America’s natural resources. The Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund, which you know as the Pittman-Robertson fund, is one tax that even a “Tea Partier” like yours truly doesn’t mind. Today, it’s topped a staggering $14.1 billion in contributions.
The Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund is a tax paid by firearm and ammunition manufacturers on the products they produce. The excise tax is set at 11 percent of the wholesale price for long guns and ammunition and 10 percent of the wholesale price for handguns. The excise tax, paid by manufacturers and importers, applies basically to all firearms produced or imported for commercial sales, whether their purpose is for recreational shooting, hunting or personal defense. The tax is currently administered by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in the Department of the Treasury, which turns the funds over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
USFWS then deposits the Pittman-Robertson revenue into a special account called the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund, which is administered by the USFWS. These funds are made available to states and territories the year following their collection.
These 10 to 11 percent excise tax dollars collected since 1937 under the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act are specifically designated to be used by state wildlife agencies for conservation. Collectively, purchasers of firearms and ammunition, hunters and the industry are the greatest source of wildlife conservation funding.
“This is truly a remarkable win for wildlife conservation,” said Joe Bartozzi, NSSF’s President and CEO. “This fund has been responsible for the restoration and recovery of America’s iconic game species, including the Rocky Mountain elk, whitetail deer, pronghorn antelope, wild turkeys and a variety of waterfowl. It is also responsible for funding the recovery and conservation of nongame species, including the American bald eagle, reptiles, fauna and conservation lands that allow them to thrive. The firearm industry is proud to perform such an important and vital function to ensure America’s wildlife remains abundant for future generations.”
Of course, not all gun owners are thrilled about Pittman-Robertson. Many point out (correctly) that it places a disproportionate burden on those of us who only wish to exercise our Second Amendment rights. After all, our wild spaces are a public good–why isn’t the whole public on the hook, too? What are your thoughts? Sound off in the comments!
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