NEWTOWN, Conn. — The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources will vote today to forward a historic package of legislation to Congress that includes a number of legislative priorities of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry.
H.R. 4089, known as the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012, was recently introduced by Congressmen Jeff Miller and Mike Ross, who are co-chairs of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, along with Bob Latta and Heath Shuler, vice co-chairs, and caucus members Congressmen Don Young, Dan Benishek and Dan Boren as well as Congressman Jeff Flake serving as original co-sponsors.
The bill combines a number of legislative priorities to expand and enhance recreational hunting, shooting and fishing opportunities while also protecting the firearms and ammunition industries from extremely detrimental regulations under the Environmental Protection Agency.
NSSF considers the legislation vitally important to help maintain the ranks of sportsmen and women who provide the bulk of support for wildlife conservation in America. Through the purchases of hunting and fishing licenses and sporting equipment such as firearms, ammunition and fishing tackle, which carry an excise tax, sportsmen have contributed more than $12 billion to wildlife conservation. “Sportsmen were our country’s first conservationists,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel. “Without continued, easy access to lands and waters where game and fish can be pursued, sportsmen will become less active and funding for conservation will decline, which be a loss for all citizens, not just hunters and anglers.”
Four bills are included in H.R. 4089:
The Hunting, Fishing, and Recreational Shooting Protection Act amends the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to clarify the original intent of Congress to exclude traditional ammunition with lead components and lead fishing tackle from regulation by the EPA. The bill covers a variety of hunting and fishing components that will be exempt because they are subject to a federal excise tax.
NSSF has championed this legislation in response to anti-hunting and -fishing interests that are currently litigating to try to force the EPA to regulate traditional ammunition and recreational fishing tackle. The Center for Biological Diversity and other groups petitioned the EPA to ban traditional ammunition and fishing tackle, an aggressive action denounced by industry and leading conservation groups because no sound science exists showing that wildlife populations have been negatively impacted by the use of such products.
Though EPA rejected the petitions, the threat remains that if EPA were to exercise TSCA authority over ammunition and fishing tackle, massive increases in the price of ammunition and tackle for sportsmen would result due to the exponentially higher raw materials and manufacturing costs of using alternative metals. Not only would this result in the loss of hunters, recreational shooters and anglers, but it also would have untold detrimental impacts on countless manufacturing facilities, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs. This would in turn result in significant losses to conservation funding due to reduced Pittman-Robertson (firearms/ammunition) and Dingell- Johnson (fishing tackle) excise tax receipts.
An EPA ban would also impact federal, state and local law enforcement, which is why the Fraternal Order of Police supports the bill. Even the nation’s armed forces would be affected by an EPA ban.
The Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act requires federal land managers to support and facilitate use and access for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting. The bill also requires federal land managers to incorporate an evaluation of the impact on hunting, fishing and recreational shooting into all land and resource planning. In addition, it allows agencies to lease or designate lands for recreational shooting, and it classifies hunting, fishing and recreational shooting as “necessary” to meet the minimum requirements for the administration of wilderness.
The Polar Bear Conservation and Fairness Act of 2011 amends the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to direct the Secretary of the Interior to issue a permit for the importation of polar bear parts taken in a sport hunt in Canada, if legally harvested before February 18, 1997, or May 15, 2008, from a bear population from which a sport-hunted trophy could be imported before such date.
Finally, the Recreational Shooting Protection Act requires National Monument land to be open to access and use for recreational shooting, except as limited by the director of the BLM. Before restricting access to or closing land to recreational shooting activity, the director must publish a public notice to that effect and report to Congress the reasons for taking such action. The bill requires management of National Monument land in a manner that supports, promotes and enhances recreational shooting opportunities.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 7,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers. For more information, click here.