Shooting Sports Committed to Conservation

NSSF celebrates the one tax the firearm and ammunition industry is proud to pay.

Shooting Sports Committed to Conservation

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that the agency was distributing $1.3 billion to the states to fund wildlife conservation, public land access, recreational shooting range construction and improvement and hunter education. That’s a figure that firearm and ammunition manufacturers are proud of, especially since this industry paid the overwhelming majority of those funds — over $944 million.

The total funds are collected from the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson excise taxes. Those are the taxes paid by manufacturers on the products they produce for recreational shooting and hunting firearms and ammunition, archery and angling equipment. In the case of firearm and ammunition manufacturers, that tax is paid for every firearm and box of ammunition produced. That’s an 11% tax on all long guns and ammunition and a 10% tax on handguns.  Those taxes added up to $944,007,497 for 2023.

That means nearly three quarters of the conservation dollars going back to the states were derived from the taxes paid by firearm and ammunition makers. Since the inception of the tax in 1937, firearm and ammunition manufacturers have paid over $25 billion when adjusted for inflation. That’s a hefty price tag, to be sure. Some would wonder why an industry would be glad to pay a tax bill of that size.

Why Pay?

The answer is actually rather easy. It’s a down payment on the abundant wildlife, habitat and safe public shooting facilities that future hunters and recreational shooters will need. When the tax was started in 1937, wildlife in North America was in dire straits. Rocky Mountain elk were few — just an estimated 41,000 roamed the landscape. Whitetail deer numbered just half a million across America. Wild turkeys were teetering at just 100,000 and only an estimated 12,000 pronghorn antelope ran across the plains. Waterfowl were few in America’s wetlands.

Today, thanks to the investments made in wildlife conservation and habitat from funds like the Pittman-Robertson excise taxes, there’s a complete turnabout. More than a million Rocky Mountain elk bugle, and states as far east as Virginia have actually opened limited hunting seasons for recovering populations. Over 32 million Whitetail deer live across America. Wild turkeys are in excess of 7 million with pronghorn antelope numbering 1.1 million. Waterfowl are in excess of 44 million from coast to coast.

The USFWS has distributed $28 billion to date through annual apportionments. State and territorial fish and wildlife agencies have contributed approximately $9 billion in investments throughout the program’s history. Through these combined funds, agencies have supported the annual stocking of over 1 billion fish, managed and monitored over 500 species of wild mammals and birds, provided hunter education to millions of students and constructed or renovated over 800 target ranges.

Eligible states, commonwealths and territories use this money to fund professional biologists, offer education and safety programs, operate fish and wildlife health labs, purchase, operate and maintain more than 35 million acres of land open to hunting and angling and provide access at over 9,000 locations nationally for community fishing opportunities.

The firearm industry is proud to know that the overwhelming majority of the conservation dollars being reinvested back to state wildlife conservation, range construction and hunter education is derived from the Pittman-Robertson excise taxes paid by the firearm and ammunition industry.

Target Shooters

That conservation heritage is supported by hunters and recreational target shooters that purchase firearms and ammunition. More likely than not, that cost burden is being supported by recreational target shooters and gun owners who are not purchasing firearms for hunting for wild game. Still, there’s a sense of pride among those who don’t hunt in knowing that they’re supporting companies that are conserving the sustainable wildlife all Americans can enjoy.

A survey conducted by Responsive Management, in partnership with the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies found that 86% of gun owners and recreational target marksmen and women who don’t hunt support the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program.

Over time, recreational target shooting has grown in popularity as a sport, even as hunting numbers have waned in comparison with population growth across America. That means today’s wildlife conservation efforts are increasingly funded by recreational target shooters and everyday gun owners.

That support is more than a passing thought to non-hunting gun owners and recreational target shooters. Of the 86% that indicated they supported the excise tax, 52% responded with strong support to the survey. Just 3% were opposed to the tax and another 12% were neutral.

Later questions in the survey revealed that nine out of 10 non-hunters were proud to support conservation investments and eight out of 10 non-hunters feel connected to wildlife and conservation.

This conservation investment led by the firearm and ammunition manufacturers ensures all Americans are able to enjoy access to public lands, abundant wildlife, healthy habitats for wildlife to thrive and hunter education and firearm safety programs. This investment will ensure the next generation of America’s hunter-conservationists are able to pass along this heritage to generations to come. There is no mistaking the firearm and ammunition industry’s commitment to conservation. This is in the DNA of our entire industry.


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