GOP launches legislative attack on gun tax that has provided decades-long funding for conservation

GOP launches legislative attack on gun tax that has provided decades-long funding for conservation
A firearm and seven bullets in 2018, Wikimedia Commons

Over 50 Republican lawmakers are interested in passing a repeal to end a decades-long excise tax for firearms and ammunition. Although the tax has provided funding for nationwide wildlife conservation projects, Republicans are hoping to nix it in their latest legislative attack, according to HuffPost.

The latest proposed initiative is said to be a direct response to Democratic lawmakers' call for stricter gun control amid the latest disturbing flurry of mass shootings in several cities across the United States.

Per HuffPost, Republicans are proposing the "RETURN (Repealing Excise Tax on Unalienable Rights Now) Our Constitutional Rights Act," which the news outlet describes as being as "political as it is detached from history." Last month, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) introduced the bill. In a bold statement, he condemned and politicized the tax on guns and ammunitions describing it as a Democratic political seige on Second Amendment rights.

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“As assaults against Americans’ Second Amendment freedoms continue to emerge, so do treacherous threats that seek to weaponize taxation in order to price this constitutional right out of the reach of average Americans,” Clyde said. “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.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who also co-sponsored the bill, echoed similar sentiments in a statement of her own as she argued that the longstanding 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.”

Clyde and Stefanik have been joined by a total of 57 other Republican lawmakers. The tax Republicans are seeking to repeal has been in place since 1919. HuffPost also noted that: "Since the passage of the bipartisan Pittman–Robertson Act in 1937, funding generated from the tax — 11% on long guns, ammunition, and archery equipment; 10% on handguns — is distributed to states to pay for wildlife management and research, habitat conservation, land acquisition, and hunter education and safety."

In wake of the proposed piece of legislation, Republican lawmakers are facing opposition. John Gal —the conservation director at the Montana-based nonprofit preservation organization, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers— criticized the legislation labeling it “wrongheaded” as he warned that "it would 'recklessly unravel Pittman-Robertson funding as we know it.'”

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“Its passage would have devastating consequences for our fish and wildlife agencies and would limit the role of sportsmen and women in funding conservation, diminishing our effectiveness as a constituency,” he said in a statement. “For 85 years, the Pittman-Robertson Act has played a critical role in fostering responsive management of wildlife populations in the United States, with American hunters and industry members alike willingly stepping up to contribute to the conservation of this irreplaceable resource. This is a legacy of which we’re justifiably proud ― and which we’re committed to continuing in perpetuity.”

Nephi Cole, director of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, admitted that he was "flabbergasted" to hear about the legislative proposal.

“It’s irreplaceable,” Cole said of the Pittman-Robertson Act during a recent segment of his podcast, “Your Mountain.” “It’s critical not only for wildlife and habitat, but, to be frank, it’s important for America’s culture of firearms, hunting, conservation and use. It’s big. It’s a big deal.”

The proposed repeal also comes just months after Interior Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau released a statement announcing record-breaking funding.

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“Hunters, anglers, and sportsmen and women have some of the deepest connections to nature,” Beaudreau said back in February. “For 85 years, this program has been foundational to wildlife and habitat conservation and outdoor recreation throughout the country.”

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