The House on Monday gave final legislative approval to a bill that would allow states to use more money they receive from federal excise taxes on guns and ammunition to upgrade and create public shooting ranges.
HR 1222, the “Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act,” was co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah and Democratic Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin.
House passage followed last month’s Senate approval of the bill, according to TheBlaze. In the Senate, the bill was sponsored by Sens. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, and Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican.
The bill, which has been proposed in the past but had never been approved by both houses of Congress, now goes to the White House.
The bill gives states a new impetus to invest in public shooting ranges. Under current law, states wanting to use excise taxes on guns and ammunition authorized by the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 have to chip in 25 percent of the cost for target range creation or upgrades, according to TheBlaze.
The money, collected by the federal government and then shared with the states, funds a wide range of conservation and outdoors programming.
The new law reduces the percentage of non-federal dollars that need to be spent on a target range to 10 percent.
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“This is something that’s been long sought by the sports community,” Bishop said on the House floor, TheBlaze reported.
Bishop said target ranges support the safe use of firearms and are needed now more than ever.
“As this nation becomes more urbanized, the ability of having people a safe place where they can go and they can practice — target practicing, it becomes even more significant that these ranges have to be maintained, they have to be improved in some particular way,” he said.
Bishop said the legislation does not force states to act, but gives them the opportunity to do so.
“What we’re doing here is, I think, taking the right approach: With a fund that already exists, giving states flexibility and encouraging the sporting community,” Bishop said.
“That’s why the sportsmen of our country have long sought for this particular provision; they look at this as a major and important win.”
Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, praised the bill in a statement on the group’s website.
“This is crucial legislation that would provide state fish and game agencies more flexibility to use Pittman-Robertson excise taxes dollars raised from the sale of firearms and ammunition to enhance existing public shooting ranges and to build new ones to meet the growing need for additional places for target shooters to participate in their sport,” Keane said in the statement.
“Public shooting ranges provide hunters a place to sight in rifles and shotguns before hunting seasons, for people to take firearm safety and hunter education courses and for recreational target shooters to enjoy their sport.”
During an interview with the NSSF last year, Bishop noted that access is one of the major issues for hunters.
“Too often, the federal government curtails access to public lands. Especially in the West, we should be opening areas and creating opportunities for hunting and fishing. It’s the government that tries to limit these kinds of experiences, and it is long past time for that to change.
“As a congressman, it is my responsibility to create more freedom for sportsmen and safeguard those liberties from those would attack them for political gain,” he said.
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