The C.A.S.H. Courier Newsletter
Hunting Needs to be Part of the Gun Debate
Taking a Hard Look at the Pittman-Robertson Act
By Anne Muller
From the Arizona Game and Fish Department
Gavin Jacobson took a 159
pound, 8 point white-tailed buck with a muzzleloader on the 10th day of
November, 2012 in Harford County. Photo from the Maryland DNR.
Hunting as a part of the gun debate appears to be inconsistent with the
current goal of the White House, which is to fracture the monolithic power
of the NRA. The common sense connection between hunting and violence has not
merely been side-stepped, but the use of firearms to hunt has the explicit
imprimatur of this administration. Although there is clearly a
concerted effort to protect hunting from proposed gun control laws, the
subject needs to be examined for its connection to the government’s role as
both beneficiary and motivator of the use of firearms.
a New York Times op-ed, Selling a New Generation on Guns, the author, Mike
McIntire, stated that the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) financed a
study to explore attitudes toward guns in order to counteract the trend of
declining hunter recruitment. Strategies were suggested for generating
a greater acceptance of guns among children. As the question of why a
government entity would have a strong interest in promoting firearms use
among children was left unanswered, we would like to fill that gap.
Not surprisingly, the reason is financial.
Mandated by the Pittman-Robertson (P-R) Act of 1937, an excise tax was
placed on firearms and ammunition. The firearms and ammunition excise
tax (FAET) is collected by the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade Bureau (TTB) within
the US Department of Treasury. The tax is then turned over to the FWS.
Eleven percent is retained by the FWS to cover administrative expenses. The
rest is apportioned to all 50 states using a formula based on each state’s
hunting license sales and state size. The P-R Act prohibited the taxes from
being used for any purpose other than to generate more hunting and shooting
opportunities, i.e., more use of firearms and ammunition. A galling aspect
of this Act is that, in order to receive their federal share, states must
match those funds with 25% from state coffers. Those who celebrate the P-R
Act claim that matching funds can come from hunting license sales, but left
unsaid is that they can also come from the general fund of the state.
To illustrate how aberrant the P-R excise tax is, let’s compare excise
taxes collected on two other well-known products: alcohol and tobacco.
Excise taxes on those products may be used for a variety of societal needs:
education, health, housing, etc.
If the same government structure and financial mechanism that applies to
firearms applied as well to alcohol and tobacco, the following would exist:
There would be two government agencies solely dedicated to the respective
sale and use of alcohol and tobacco. They would collect excise taxes
for the purpose of creating drinking and smoking opportunities, and pay
their employees based on the number of people they motivate to drink and
They would not share their funds with the public, even with the direct or
indirect victims of alcohol or tobacco.
Would we tolerate such government agencies? Not likely. Yet, that is
precisely how the FWS and state bureaus of wildlife operate. The use to
which the weapons and ammunition are put is irrelevant to the destination of
the FAET. That means that firearms and ammunition used in drug-related or
other crimes aid hunting and wildlife manipulation for hunting. The
massacres at Jonesboro, Columbine, Aurora, Newtown, and thousands of
individual murders in the urban areas of our country have, in fact,
benefited wildlife management agencies. How can murder with a firearm and
ammunition whose excise taxes pay only for wildlife management be justified?
Are the victims merely “collateral damage”?
The FWS and the firearms industry are focused on youth hunting. Their
studies have concluded that placing firearms in the hands of children will
hook them on using weapons, thus ensuring sales well into the future. Mr.
McIntire’s op-ed brought to light a suggested strategy for motivating
disinclined children to hunt: “peer ambassadors.” In the 1990s, when
the drop in recruitment of young people into the “shooting sports” became
worrisome to the firearms industry and wildlife managers, hunters used
another recruitment tactic that they called the “buddy program.” The
industry had determined that the decline of hunting (use of firearms) was
partially attributable to a rise in the number of families headed by single
moms. Through hunting publications, hunters were encouraged to befriend
these women in order to take their kids hunting.
While hunting is touted as a clean-cut pastime that allows rural
traditions to be passed from generation to generation, it is actually quite
an intimidating experience for those who encounter hunters on their
property, have had property damaged, pets and livestock killed, and their
children frightened. Rural citizens who wish to keep hunters off their
property, or keep them from shooting near their property, are often
harassed, abused, and ignored by hunters, while law enforcement officers and
local judges too often back up the hunters. In particular, women
living alone have been forced to pay fines, and spend time in jail and
courts, having been charged with “Hunter Harassment.” Hunter Harassment
laws, instigated by the NRA and others, now exist in every state, although
they arguably violate the First Amendment.
Gavin Jacobson took a 159 pound, 8 point white-tailed buck with a
muzzleloader on the 10th day of November, 2012 in Harford County. Photo from
the Maryland DNR.
Those who depend on the sale of firearms and their use are desperate to
recruit children into the “shooting sports” to ensure profits and excise
taxes well into the future. That is being done although studies have
shown that for some there is but a fine line between killing animals and
killing people, a line that can and has been crossed.
Recently, it was reported that a SEAL sniper attributed his indifference
to killing people to having hunted in his youth. That came to light
when he himself was killed by someone with a hunting background. Such
news reports indicate and dictate that hunting has to become a part of the
There are many responsible citizens, gun owners and voters among them,
who are disgusted with the arrogant perspective that the recreational
killing of animals is considered to be a justification for the purchase of
firearms and ammunition.
One need not play video games to learn violence. Lessons in violence can
be learned as readily from killing animals in the woods. Recently, a
live squirrel shooting contest was sponsored by the fire department of
Holley, NY. Their flier showed an adorable squirrel with cross-hairs
covering his little face. The flier announced that the children who
killed the fattest squirrels would win firearms, including a semi-automatic
weapon. Who benefits? The firearms industry and wildlife management
agencies. The children who are taught that killing other living creatures
can be fun. In the end, the society loses. It is simply prudent to keep
firearms out of the hands of some adults and certainly out of the hands of
It is simply prudent to keep firearms out of the hands of some adults and
certainly out of the hands of all children.
Go on to
Rural Enforcement of Law Non-Existent if
Hunters are the Perpetrators
Back to Winter 2013 Table of Contents
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