Gun Owners, Hunters and Shooters Overwhelmingly Support North American Wildlife Conservation

Gun Owners, Hunters and Shooters Overwhelmingly Support North American Wildlife Conservation

New research finds that 86 percent of America’s non-hunting firearm owners and recreational shooters support the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, otherwise known as the Pittman-Robertson Act (P-R). The P-R Act established a tax on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment, with the funds collected going to wildlife conservation programs across the nation. Over the years, the P-R Act has funded billions of dollars for wildlife conservation efforts carried out by our state fish and wildlife agencies.

As the NRA reported on this website 2022, “State fish and wildlife agencies have received more than $15 billion in funding since the 1937 (P-R) bill became law—and $1.5 billion just in 2022 … .” State wildlife agencies apply for P-R funding each year for various projects and the states then contribute matching funds.

Big Impacts
As reported, some 2 million new hunters have taken hunter education funded by P-R monies in just the past three years.

Since 2014, 1,506 public shooting ranges have been developed and/or enhanced, expanding shooting and training access for all, thanks to help from P-R funding. The P-R tax helps the 50 states to manage nearly 35 million acres for public hunting and other recreational access.

Iconic wildlife species once in decline or extirpated from parts of their historical range have been restored using P-R money. The wild turkey once numbered only 30,000 prior to P-R’s passage and today numbers 7 million. Whitetail deer once numbered fewer than 500,000 animals. Today? Nearly 30 million, thanks to wildlife research and management projects funded by P-R.

The above-cited research was conducted by Responsive Management in partnership with the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The nationwide survey was specifically designed to explore the attitudes of non-hunting Wildlife Restoration Program contributors.

The P-R Act was made into law in the 1930s. Since then, the Responsive Management report noted, “Hunting participation in the United States has gradually declined just as sport shooting participation and firearm purchases for non-hunting purposes have steadily risen. As a result, America's oldest and most successful wildlife conservation funding program is now increasingly being supported by non-hunting purchasers of the taxable equipment.”

The survey first provided respondents with a brief description of the P-R tax on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment and where those tax monies are directed. Turned out, only a third of non-hunting sport shooters and firearm owners knew about the tax prior to being asked about it.

Public Support
Furthermore, according to the report, “The survey found that less than half of gun owners and sport shooters know that their state fish and wildlife agency restores fish and wildlife species that are in trouble, or that their agency provides public lands for hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching. Meanwhile, only about a third know that their agency provides educational programs to introduce people to hunting or to recreational shooting.”

At the same time, less than a quarter of respondents knew that their state fish and wildlife agency offered target shooting opportunities through public shooting ranges—directly relevant to the interests and needs of recreational sport shooters.

As noted, though, once these same people discovered all that the P-R tax monies do for wildlife conservation and the shooting sports in general, a huge majority approved of the tax and the expenditures.

Read the full report from Responsive Management here.

Cooperative Funding
Groups from the NRA to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the nation’s firearm and ammunition trade association, readily applaud the fact hunters and shooters are primary funders of wildlife conservation. In fact, the NSSF recently was pleased to report that in 2023, state agencies received some $1.3 billion in P-R funding to help improve wildlife conservation, public land access, recreational shooting range construction and improvement and hunter education. Of that total, firearm and ammunition manufacturers contributed the overwhelming majority of those funds at just over $944 million. Those millions were derived from the P-R Act’s 11 percent tax on all long guns and ammunition and a 10 percent tax on handguns.

In addition, the NSSF reports that since the P-R Act went into effect, state and territorial fish and wildlife agencies have contributed approximately $9 billion in cooperative investments.

Informing the Public
As a top news source for hunters, NRA Publications’ website remains at the forefront of informing the public about the massive ongoing efforts of hunters, recreational shooters and the shooting sports industry to improve wildlife conservation for all wildlife species. It will continue to perform this important work, especially in the face of anti-hunting forces and others who actively work to ban  hunting and, in the process, condemn hunters with emotional and factually incorrect public attacks.