President Donald Trump recently signed a measure backed by pro-gun groups to increase the number of shooting ranges available on public land. The bipartisan proposal, H.R.1222, was introduced in February and passed in a voice vote in April while the Senate likewise approved a similar bill earlier this year.
Currently, states looking to begin work on public shooting ranges must match federal government grant funds to the tune of 25 cents on the dollar. The range bill signed by Trump this month drops the matching formula to 90/10 while also allowing funds to accrue for up to five years – up from two.
Now law, the move tweaks the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act. This 80-year-old law uses an 11 percent excise tax levied on all guns and ammo commercially sold or imported into the country to perform conservation-related tasks such as restoring habitat, funding hunter safety programs and establishing public ranges. Paid for by firearms industry manufacturers, conservation officials announced over $670 million in Pittman-Robertson funds would be available to states this year alone.
The change, which has been proposed in one form or another no less than 29 different times over the past 14 years, was a top priority for the gun industry’s trade group.
“We deeply appreciate President Trump’s swift enactment of this legislation that will give state fish and game agencies greater flexibility to build new recreational shooting ranges and expand and improve existing ranges,” said Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
The latest National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, compiled by the federal government every five years since 1955, counted a population of least 11.4 million hunters in the country. These sportsmen, in turn, pumped $25.6 billion into the economy in 2016.
Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President Jeff Crane said the new range law is important as, “Now more than ever, America’s sportsmen and women need places to hone their skills and learn the fundamentals of hunting and the shooting sports.”