Firearm Industry Blows Past $14 Billion in Wildlife Conservation Tax Contributions

by Jon D. B.
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As of August 2021, over $14 billion has gone to conservation through The Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund, a.k.a. Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax, reports the NSSF (The Firearm Industry Trade Association).

“This is truly a remarkable win for wildlife conservation,” says NSSF President and CEO Joe Bartozzi in their press release. The win? Taxes from firearm and ammunition manufacturers have now contributed $14.1 billion to the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund in the time since its 1937 founding. It’s an Outsider’s bit of news if there ever was one.

“This fund has been responsible for the restoration and recovery of America’s iconic game species, including the Rocky Mountain elk, whitetail deer, pronghorn antelope, wild turkeys and a variety of waterfowl,” Bartozzi continues for the August 2021 milestone. “It is also responsible for funding the recovery and conservation of nongame species, including the American bald eagle, reptiles, fauna and conservation lands that allow them to thrive.”

Bartozzi says the firearm industry is “proud to perform such an important and vital function to ensure America’s wildlife remains abundant for future generations.”

For a bit more context, the $14 billion comes from The Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund. Other names for the program include the Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax, or Pittman-Robertson fund (described at the prior link by the NSSF).

The program is a tax paid to the U.S. Government by manufacturers of firearms and ammunition on the products they produce for customers. According to the NSSF, the excise tax is set at 11% of wholesale price for long guns and ammunition. For handguns and apropos ammunition, the excise tax is 10%. These percentages apply to nearly all firearms/ammunition produced or imported for commercial sales. The tax does not discriminate based on usage; whether it be hunting, defense, or recreational.

Taxes Help Make Hunting, Wildlife Conservation One and the Same

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(Photo by W. Wayne Lockwood/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

As for who administers the tax, that galls to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tac and Trade Bureau (TTB). The bureau is part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. TTB then turns the funds over to the USFWS, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s a long and winding road, but one that has proven a clear, monumental success for conservation in America.

USFWS will then deposit any of the excise tax, or revenue, into the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund. The WRTF is a special account under the USFWS’s jurisdiction. After collection, funds are made available to individual states and territories the following year for use in local wildlife conservation.

The program predates the NSSF by nearly three decades. Passed in 1973, The Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration act is to thank. The decree cites that these funds are specifically for state wildlife agencies, and no one else.

As a result, American hunters and fellow purchasers of firearms and ammunition have now put $14.1 billion towards wildlife conservation funding. It is, by far, the largest amount set to the cause.

Note: NSSF is the trade association for the firearm industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearm retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers nationwide. For more information, visit nssf.org.

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