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Legislation Encourages Target Practice and Marksmanship Training

Legislation Encourages Target Practice and Marksmanship Training

Photo credit: ChattOconeeNF—Cedar Creek Shooting Range

Legislation that will change the way state wildlife management agencies can utilize Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act (P-R) funds to build shooting ranges and encourage more shooting practice and training passed Congress on Apr. 30 and is on its way to President Donald J. Trump’s desk. H.R. 1222, the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act (TPMTS), amends P-R specifically “to facilitate the establishment of additional or expanded public target ranges in certain States.” Senator Mike Crapo, (R-Idaho) had already introduced Senate Bill S. 94 in the Senate, where it passed, and the House bill is identical to S. 94.  

As most sportsmen know, P-R dollars are generated through excise taxes on sporting arms and ammunition, pistols and revolvers, bows, arrows and their parts and accessories—including those used in crossbows. It long has been held in the outdoor community that building shooting ranges and the resulting opportunities for shooting practice and training to improve marksmanship are integral parts of both becoming and being a hunter.

Over the years, state wildlife agencies have been financially challenged to produce the matching funds (25 percent) required for range development under existing P-R guidelines. Part of TPMTS addresses the worrisome declines in shooting and training venues and opportunities by providing states with new financial requirements that allow them to more easily use available P-R funds to develop and improve public shooting ranges.

H.R. 1222 sets the “Federal share of the cost of acquiring land for, expanding or constructing a public range… [to] not exceed 90 percent of the cost…” Furthermore, the “Amounts provided for [these activities]…shall remain available for expenditure and obligation during the 5-fiscal-year period…” Both changes add significant flexibility and opportunity for states to build or enhance shooting ranges.

The bill also “urges” the U. S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to “cooperate” with both state and local “…entities to carry out waste removal and other activities on any federal land used as a public target range to encourage its continued use for target practice or marksmanship training.”

To be certain, the goings-on of national legislation are difficult for most sportsmen to track, and this effort was no exception. In the last five years, multiple bills dealing with this subject have been introduced but failed to become law. And, for those not familiar with how Congress works, once a bill fails it has to be reintroduced and is given a new bill number and title, so kudus to the legislators and sportsmen and women who stuck to it over the years and have now seen H.R. 1222 passed. 

“Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act”—Addressing Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation (R3)

An important companion piece of legislation is also one that has seen multiple introductions in Congress. It was reintroduced this January as H.R. 877. This legislation would give states the ability to use P-R funds for “… hunter and recreational shooter R3 efforts through the promotion and marketing of educational programs to the sporting and non-sporting community, and will clarify that one of the purposes of P-R is to provide financial and technical assistance to the states for R3.”

H.R. 877 also would give the states additional flexibility to implement the National Hunting and Shooting Sports Action plan, which is an overall plan to implement R3 programs nationwide.

If passed, H.R. 877 would act to level the playing field between P-R and Dingell-Johnson (D-J) (which uses taxes collected on fishing, boating and fuels to enhance fishing and boating) when it comes to recruiting efforts for new participants. The “Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act” (MPRFTNA) was referred by the House Natural Resources Committee to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife, where it was discussed on Mar. 26. No action was taken.

MPRFTNA would provide a maximum of $5 million per year from the archery tax, which would go into the Multistate Grant Fund, administered by state fish and game agencies. Furthermore, the bill stipulates that these funds have to be used for Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation (R3) of hunters and shooters. It’s worth noting that H.R. 877 contains no new congressional mandates and no new taxes, enabling state wildlife agencies and their partners to apply their efforts and budgets on the R3 programs that prove to be most effective.

Sportsmen who are concerned about the future of hunting and shooting should familiarize themselves with this legislation and contact their representatives. This is important for the future of hunting.

Readers can track this and other national legislation, including getting automatic updates sent directly to you, through www.govtrack.us. Visit Congress.gov to track the progress of MPRFTNA. Another tracking site is netfind.com

If you are new to contacting your elected officials, check out this site for a primer. 

About the author: Chris Chaffin has been an outdoor communicator, educator and partnership manager for more than 40 years. On the national scene he has represented several prominent companies in the outdoor community and served two terms as treasurer of the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), eventually taking on the roles of vice-president, president and chairman of the board. In 2007, he launched Chaffin Communications, Inc., a communications consulting company focusing on the outdoors. In 2012, with support from the Outdoor Adventure Dream Giveaway, Chaffin founded and currently manages the Outdoor Adventure Conservation Fund, a Florida non-profit established to encourage and facilitate more people participating in traditional outdoor activities.

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