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An upside to the gun-buying frenzy

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Jonathan Thompson | Mar 19, 2013 11:30 AM

The last five years have been quite nice for the firearm industry. Gun and ammunition makers had a bonanza in 2009, thanks to fears that a newly-elected President Obama would sent out jackbooted, United Nations thugs in black helicopters to steal their guns (and maybe build bike paths, too!). It didn’t happen, of course. Yet that didn’t stop people from rushing out and fortifying their arsenals again after mass shootings in 2011 (Tucson) and 2012 (Aurora and Newtown). Gun sale background checks peaked in the weeks following the Newtown shooting, consistently reaching the highest levels since 1999.

The losers -- aside from a society now more awash in killing tools -- are the pocketbooks of those who were duped into going on a gun-buying frenzy. The winners, of course, are the firearm corporations, who pulled in money hand over fist, even during the recession. Freedom Group, the gun conglomerate that makes Bushmaster AR-15s, the gun used in the Newtown shooting, had a banner year in 2009 [PDF]. They were on pace for an even better one in 2012, but haven’t released fourth quarter or annual earnings reports.

Firearm Background Checks
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation.

There’s another, somewhat unexpected winner in this paroxysm of gunpowder capitalism, however: Wildlife and the landscapes on which they depend. Every time a pistol, rifle, shell or cartridge is sold at the wholesale level, it is taxed (archery equipment is also included). And the proceeds from the tax go to the Wildlife Restoration Fund, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Earlier this month, the Congressional Research Service released a report [PDF] on the fund and the effects recent gun sales have had on it. It’s been a very good string of years. In 2009, total revenue to the fund -- which was created by the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 -- was nearly $500 million. That’s about twice what the fund was receiving annually in the 1990s and early Aughts. And then, in 2012, revenues were a whopping $550 million or so. The report predicts an even rosier future.

P-R Revenues
Source: Congressional Research Service

Of that half a billion figure, around $80 million will go to a variety of hunter education programs and projects. The rest goes to wildlife restoration projects. The cash is apportioned to the states based on amount of land, number of hunting license holders and the like. The West ends up doing quite well. The 11 states in HCN’s coverage area collectively ended up with about $100 million in 2010.

The projects funded by the tax have been credited with bringing game animals back from the brink. When the P-R Act was passed, Colorado had a mere seven-day elk hunting season because the animals numbered in the hundreds; these days, hunters bag tens of thousands of elk in the state each year. But the projects don’t just focus on game species: They can range from improving endangered cutthroat trout fisheries in Nevada, to surveying the flora and fauna of tribal land in Southern California. And, of course, when you bolster deer or elk numbers, it’s good for predators like mountain lions and wolves.

It’s a tax that even a conservative can love (the NRA rose a ruckus when it found out the P-R fund would be a victim of the sequester, losing approximately $21 million this year). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service touts the P-R program as a user pay/user benefit tax. That may have been true once upon a time, when hunters were the ones buying most of the guns. But hunter numbers peaked back in 1982, and have been in a slow decline ever since (as have the number of gun owners). Gun sales also plateaued for years, but started climbing again in 2006, even before the recent paranoia-inspired spikes. Clearly, hunters aren’t the only ones buying the guns, or paying those taxes.

But that's just fine. In our book there's absolutely nothing wrong with redistributing wealth from the pockets of gun fanatics to the wildlands of the West.

Jonathan Thompson is a senior editor at High Country News. His Twitter handle is @jonnypeace.

Robb Cadwell
Robb Cadwell Subscriber
Mar 19, 2013 08:35 PM
About the "slow decline" of hunters in your second to last paragraph. Actually the last National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and
Wildlife-Associated Recreation conducted by the census bureau on behalf of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service showed a sharp uptick of 9% over the past 5 years. http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/[…]/2011_Survey.htm I do think people are traveling less and buying fewer licenses for multiple seasons, but the actual number of license buying hunters is up, dramatically so. http://www.doi.gov/[…]/FWS-National-Preliminary-Report-2011.pdf

Some attribute the increase to women hunters, the fastest growing demographic, others say it's because of the outreach and programs for youth. I notice a marked increase in foodies and former vegetarians.

I'd like to give a big thank you to all the recreational shooters, hobbyists, collectors, and hunters who do so much to protect, restore, and conserve, the flora and fauna of our country, much appreciated.
Jonathan Thompson
Jonathan Thompson Subscriber
Mar 20, 2013 09:02 AM
Robb: Excellent point. The slow and steady decline in hunting license holders seemed to have bottomed out in 2009, and there has been some rebound since (though we're still about 1 million short of 1982 numbers). I, too, am curious about what caused the rebound. I wonder if the recession played a part as people sought more affordable sources of meat (given the timing of the rebound).
John Public
John Public
Mar 20, 2013 10:23 AM
"The last five years have been quite nice for the firearm industry. Gun and ammunition makers had a bonanza in 2009, thanks to fears that a newly-elected President Obama would sent out jackbooted, United Nations thugs in black helicopters to steal their guns (and maybe build bike paths, too!). It didn’t happen, of course. Yet that didn’t stop people from rushing out and fortifying their arsenals again after mass shootings in 2011 (Tucson) and 2012 (Aurora and Newtown). Gun sale background checks peaked in the weeks following the Newtown shooting, consistently reaching the highest levels since 1999."

Leftists always torture reality to fit their Narrative.

The fear was that Obama would make a gun grab, and he did.

See how easy the truth is, when you try?

"a society now more awash in killing tools"

Cars, hammers, axes, kitchen knives, baseball bats, hands and feet...all killing tools.

Our society is awash in killing tools!

"The winners, of course, are the firearm corporations, who pulled in money hand over fist, even during the recession."

They gave Americans what they wanted, and made a profit. That's free enterprise, silly leftist. Only a leftist mourns a thriving American manufacturing sector. God forbid we have some jobs where people make things here, rather than in China, right?

"There’s another, somewhat unexpected winner in this paroxysm of gunpowder capitalism, however: Wildlife and the landscapes on which they depend. Every time a pistol, rifle, shell or cartridge is sold at the wholesale level, it is taxed (archery equipment is also included). And the proceeds from the tax go to the Wildlife Restoration Fund, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Earlier this month, the Congressional Research Service released a report [PDF] on the fund and the effects recent gun sales have had on it. It’s been a very good string of years. In 2009, total revenue to the fund -- which was created by the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 -- was nearly $500 million. That’s about twice what the fund was receiving annually in the 1990s and early Aughts. And then, in 2012, revenues were a whopping $550 million or so. The report predicts an even rosier future."

Don't worry, those gains were more than offset by the millions of 3rd world immigrants, both illegal infiltrators and otherwise, that the Dems and the fat cat Republicans let into the country. These people care nothing at all for environmentalism or the enviroment (dumping trash in our open spaces is like a national pasttime for many of them). Their carbon footprint skyrockets when they leave their home countries and come here, where they can now afford smog-producing cars, coal-burning electricity, etc.

Silly leftists can't even admit that population growth and urban sprawl (and thus, environmental decline) are linked to immigration, lol. David Gelbaum gives 'em a hundred million bucks and they sell out at the speed of light.
John Public
John Public
Mar 20, 2013 10:29 AM
'Course, we have Obama to thank for our "even more awash in killing tools" status. It took a Democrat president to make the fear of a Constitution-trampling gun grab a reality and send the demand for firearms into high gear. By now it's obvious his grab failed; the firearms industry couldn't have scripted it any better themselves.

Thanks Obama!
Adam Neff
Adam Neff Subscriber
Mar 26, 2013 12:36 PM
BTW, "leftist"s are pretty good capitalist too. http://seattletimes.com/[…]/2020628294_westneat24xml.html

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