U.S. Rep. Stefanik slammed by hunting groups for backing tax cut

U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik is under pressure from sports groups nationwide for her co-sponsorship of a bill that would repeal a decades-old excise tax on firearms.

While the Law of Return looks at first glance like something that would appeal to gun buyers and gun rights activists, organizations representing hunters say it would deprive a source of funding of first-order wildlife conservation and other environmental protections.

“There was no consultation with any sports or sports groups,” Kaden McArthur said of the proposal whose main sponsor is GOP Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia.

McArthur is the government relations representative for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, one of several outdoor groups that have launched social media and other attacks on the proposed bill since its introduction in June.

He plans to meet with Stefanik in the coming days in a bid to have him withdraw his support and co-sponsorship of the measure.

“We want them to know the backlash is here,” he said of the backlash against the bill.

Stefanik, because of his leadership role among House Republicans, is seen as a key target in deciding whether or not the bill will move forward.

The bill’s introduction in June looks like a bit of political theater introduced in response to what Republicans say is an attack on Second Amendment gun rights by Democrats.

Shortly after Democratic Rep. Don Byers of Virginia introduced a bill to impose a 1,000 percent excise tax on assault weapons, Clyde proposed the RETURN Act, or Excise Tax Repeal. excise on inalienable rights.

Clyde, however, had previously called for the elimination of the excise tax.

“In case my fellow Democrats have forgotten, the Bill of Rights lists rights that the government cannot infringe on. Unquestionably, the violation exists when the government taxes those rights,” Clyde said when the measure was introduced in June.

Stefanik said she totally agrees.

“I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing legislation to eliminate this harmful tax that impairs the ability of Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” Stefanik said. “Make no mistake, I will not allow the government to tax the constitutional right of hard-working Americans by marking up the price to exercise their Second Amendment rights.”

The tax in question was imposed in 1937 amid fears at the time of the loss of good wildlife habitat.

Commonly known as the Pittman-Robertson Act, it imposes a 10% tax on handguns and 11% on long guns such as rifles and shotguns as well as ammunition.

It is also known as the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, as money from the tax is used to support a range of wildlife habitat protection and restoration efforts as well as hunter safety programs.

The bill generates about $18 million a year for New York State and has brought in more than $400 million since 1939.

It supports state Department of Environmental Conservation programs for research, survey, and land management for game and nongame animals.

The program also helps fund access to wildlife-related recreation and land acquisition, according to the DEC.
Moose and mallard population trends were studied, as was research on bald eagle mortality.

Stefanik in a prepared statement Thursday echoed his earlier remarks. “As the far left doubles down on its anti-gun agenda and tries to make guns unaffordable for sportsmen and hardworking women, we should examine how the excise tax affects access for respectful citizens gun laws to protect Second Amendment rights.

His staff noted that under the RETURN plan, wildlife conservation funds could be maintained by taking unallocated funds from oil and gas concessions.

Hunt groups, however, remain skeptical and the outcry has continued, with direct contact with members and on social media.
The proposal “rightly shocked and outraged sportsmen and women,” Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, recently wrote on his blog.

The group Howl for Wildlife, the National Wildlife Federation, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Sportsmen’s Alliance joined in the criticism.

One of the largest groups opposed to the bill, the gun industry-funded National Shooting Sports Foundation, employs Stefanik’s husband, Matt Manda, as its public affairs officer.

Manda could not be reached on Thursday, but Mark Oliva, NSSF’s managing director of public affairs, said they were strongly opposed to the repeal of the excise tax. “This is woefully flawed legislation,” said Oliva, who echoed other concerns about how it would gut habitat funding and other initiatives to support wildlife.

Many of those involved in the pushback say the repeal of an 85-year-old excise tax that relatively few have heard of is unlikely to become law overnight, if at all. On Thursday, there were no sponsors in the US Senate.

And seven of the bill’s original 56 co-sponsors have withdrawn their support in recent weeks.

But outdoor folks say they were surprised by the eagerness with which lawmakers backed repeal without considering its impact on the ground.

“At first, this bill may have been misunderstood,” Oliva said.

“There are a lot of hunters who don’t understand the Pittman-Robertson funding and how crucial it is,” added Brian Bird, a former New York state geologist who now runs a beef farm and grows beef. hemp in Washington County. He is the state chairman of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers group.

Bird agreed that when the tax was first enacted in the 1930s, gun buyers generally purchased guns for hunting. Since then, more and more gun owners have been practicing target shooting rather than hunting and may not keep up with outdoor trends.

Yet around the time the excise tax was first imposed, there was support from a range of conservation-minded groups, including bird watchers, gardeners and others who appreciated a dynamic outdoor environment, Bird noted.

“It’s not just hunters who brought this up, it’s anyone who cares about the ecology or the outdoors,” he said.

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