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'This is something that's been long sought by the sports community'
The U.S. House and Senate have passed a bill aimed at encouraging the creation of more public shooting ranges throughout the United States.
In a Monday afternoon voice vote, the House passed, HR 1222, The Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act, which was co-sponsored by Reps. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.)
"This is something that's been long sought by the sports community," Bishop said on the House floor in support of the legislation.
"As this nation becomes more urbanized," Bishop added, "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."
Since the passage of the Pittman-Robertson Act in 1937, federal conservation efforts have been largely funded by sportsmen and women who pay excise taxes on guns and ammunition, as well as other sporting goods and outdoor licenses. The Department of Interior takes up the funds and then gives them to state wildlife agencies.
Under current federal law, state governments have to come up with 25 percent of the construction, maintenance, and operation funding for a public shooting ranges while the PRA's specially designated excise tax funds cover the rest.
But even just 25 percent of the total cost can be pretty steep for a state-level wildlife agency's budget. This bill aims to lower the state threshold to 10 percent to make it easier for them to put together shooting range builds and projects.
And since the extra money involved comes from within the "user pays" framework for federal wildlife funding, a CBO report on the Senate version of the bill found that enacting the legislation "would have no significant effect on direct spending."
"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 on the House floor. "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."
But target ranges aren't just for fun; they can also play a big part in gun safety.
"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," a statement in support of the measure from National Shooting Sports Foundation Vice President and General Counsel Lawrence Keane said.
The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) passed out of the upper chamber earlier this month.
"Providing states more flexibility to develop shooting ranges gives sportsmen new opportunities for target practice and boosts the outdoor recreation economy," Bennet said in a statement accompanying the bill's introduction.
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