COMMENTS BY KIM: Guns, ammo and conservation

The amount of money being designated for conservation in the United States is at an all-time high and climbing.

A big reason why is that sales of firearms and ammunition has literally gone through the roof. Those sales, along with sales of archery equipment, have pushed Pittman-Robertson tax dollars toward the billion dollar mark.

It was in 1937 that Key Pittman and Absalom Robertson wrote a bill directing that excise tax on firearms, 11% on long guns and now 10% on handguns, be sent to individual states to fund wildlife and conservation and research projects. In the past 10 years more money has been generated by Pittman-Robertson than in the previous 72 years combined.

Why? Politics. More precisely, presidential elections in which the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, becomes an issue. Huge spikes in gun and ammunition sales occurred after the election of Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012. Now, another rapid rise in sales has followed the election of Joe Biden as president, nearly four times more than when Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016.

Americans have been engaged in the most prolific buying spree of civilian firearms in history, and sales are not just coming from previous gun owners. In fact, more than eight million people who purchased a firearm in the U.S. in 2020 were first-time buyers.

The trend is continuing this year. An all-time high in firearm background checks of more than two million happened in January according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. With all those additional sales ammunition has disappeared from shelves. For nearly a year gun owners have been purchasing ammunition faster than manufacturers can produce it.

Back to tax dollars. The massive increase in gun and ammunition sales means more money for state agencies, such as the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. The money must be matched however, one-dollar for every three-dollars coming from Pittman-Robertson. That match is generally met through hunting license sales, but can come from other state sources as well.

Texas, which boasts more than one million hunters, has received the largest allocation of Pittman-Robertson dollars. North Dakota, with far fewer hunters and a much smaller geographic area, factors considered in Pittman-Robertson disbursements, is at the opposite end of the pay scale but, nevertheless, it is an important funding source for conservation.

How long the surge in firearms and ammunition sales will last remains uncertain, but remains very much influenced by political winds. Of course, more product is needed for additional Pittman-Robertson dollars to be generated. In the meanwhile, the increase in taxable sales is leading to an unprecedented rise in revenue for wildlife conservation and research.


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