More on PGC Public Range Regulations

Bitter got the Pennsylvania Game Commission on the phone and asked them some questions about the new permit requirement for public shooting ranges in Pennsylvania. I think a lot of people will object to the fact that only $200,000 of $11,000,000 in Pittman-Robertson funds goes to range maintenance. This is especially true when you consider handguns make up more than half of PR funds, and very few handguns are used for hunting.

In effect, the whole of the shooting community is subsidizing hunting. This will no doubt be a controversial statement, but I think that shooters should accept this state of affairs. Until this past year, hunting numbers had been in decline, while hunting license fees have been relatively stable, and not kept up with inflation. This means in real terms, state wildlife management budgets have shrunk. Increasing budgets for shooting ranges would mean decreasing budgets to support hunting programs, or raising hunting license fees, which will only serve to drive more people out of the sport.

A lot of people are going to argue that the baby is sick, probably isn’t going to make it to shore, and we’d be far better off just throwing it off the life boat preemptively, so that we can use the supplies for the rest of us. The problem is, hunting is a critical part of this fight, and we’re going to be far weaker politically if we toss that baby over. We have hunting numbers on the upswing. Perhaps that will continue. Time will tell.

18 thoughts on “More on PGC Public Range Regulations”

  1. Yes, and that’s a real problem for many states, SPQR. Game & fish departments are often given missions that far exceed the scope of what hunters, shooters & archers can contribute.

    Although, to throw another argument out there, I’ll point out that shooters wouldn’t have the benefit of these public ranges if it weren’t for the state’s ownership of these major hunting areas. The large open areas provided the space resource required to create these ranges. I would really frame this more of a give and take situation as opposed to shooters outright subsidizing hunters.

    The fact is that P-R funds wouldn’t fund the Game Commission alone. According to the PGC, they still rely on more than half their funding to come from hunting/furtaker license sales. I think this is clearly a case where all of the members of the community are giving something, and we can all benefit in ways that would wouldn’t be able to do without one another.

  2. The problem is, hunting is a critical part of this fight, and we’re going to be far weaker politically if we toss that baby over.

    I’d be interested to hear a justification of that statement, given that gun rights have advanced dramatically during hunting’s decline, that the self-defense message has done enormously more good for gun rights groups, and that the community of hunters seems fractious and too willing to publicly endorse gun control.

    I’m not saying throw them under the bus; nobody gets thrown under the bus. We should go to bat for them legally along with confrontational open-carriers and guys who take neon-painted ARs to the woods on the first day of National Park carry. But is the community of hunters really so essential to us that we need to direct more than their share of funds to them at the expense of communities of gun owners who do far more to advance our rights?

  3. I think a justification of this statement: “The problem is, hunting is a critical part of this fight, and we’re going to be far weaker politically if we toss that baby over.” is pretty easy

    The reason that hunting is so important is its place in the “myth” (calling it a myth doesn’t mean its not true) of America – taming the frontier, putting food on the table in times of want, walking the fields and woods with Dad, feeling you were an “adult” because you were carrying a firearm.

    These things resonate in American minds. Even though many have never experienced them, it’s in their memory. All Americans grew up with them, they’re in our songs, stories and movies. It carries powerful political significance.

  4. “The problem is, hunting is a critical part of this fight, and we’re going to be far weaker politically if we toss that baby over. ”

    Which holds more water with fence sitters and people who don’t feel strongly about the issue:

    1. “Assault rifle” is a meaningless classification based only on cosmetic aspects.

    2. “Assault rifles” are no different than daddy’s hunting rifle.

    There are a lot of people in this country who don’t know much about guns, but they do know that daddy’s hunting rifle isn’t that scary.

  5. My dad never had a hunting rifle. Neither did either of my grandfathers, as far as I know. The decline of hunting means fewer and fewer people have homey associations with “hunting guns”. At the same time, we’re seeing dramatic results from the “this may seem scary, but it’s good for self defense” message.

    I get where you guys are coming from, but seriously. British gun rights groups gambled on support for hunting and the shooting sports, while US groups gambled on support for self defense. It’s fairly undeniable that pushing defensive gun use is a better strategy than pushing sport hunting. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to have both, but why should a disproportionate amount of funding be going to the less effective tactic?

  6. “but why should a disproportionate amount of funding be going to the less effective tactic?”

    I’m not 100% on my reply here, but isn’t the funding in question from the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, not the “defend guns” pool of money? It seems reasonable then that most, if not all of that money would indeed be going to support Wildlife Restoration, not self defense.

    Maybe that’s simplistic of me.

    I can certainly see not liking the PR tax being applied to non-hunting guns when the funding doesn’t go to support your chosen hobby, but that seems like a problem with the PR act itself, not with hunting.

  7. I think you need both a self-defense component and sporting component to your strategy. As soon as you start putting people outside the community, you are doing nothing except whittling your numbers, which in turn whittles your political power.

    I’d also suggest that the reason British shooters didn’t use a self-defense strategy is because public attitudes towards self-defense in the UK versus the United States are vastly different. Europeans tend to view security as a community matter, whereas Americans tend to view it more as an individual responsibility.

  8. I see where you’re coming from. If we still have any disagreement, I think we can agree that at the very least it isn’t worth expending political capital trying to change the law.

  9. On the gripping hand it wouldn’t be out of line to point out the funding disparity when arguing that P-R funded ranges that have the capability in design, since they are being paid for anyway, be opened to a bit more variety than simple square range paper punching.

    That would, I think, answer one complaint of a lot of the defensive handgun/carbine/shotgun shooters like me.

  10. How much P-R money goes to non-public police shooting ranges in your state? In some states, it’s a considerable part of the money. Ranges so supported are supposed to be open on a non-interference basis to the public, but a lot of jurisdictions claim that any involvement would interfere.

  11. I’ll just point this out….

    $30 for a Range Permit vs $20 for a Hunting Permit (which gets all the additional perks of the hunting permit for $10 less).

    This is a “FUD” victory, they can now have our cake and eat it too. I mean seriously, we’ve got to pay more to have less.

    And the entry to hunting is only partially the permits, trying to find a friggin’ hunter safety class can take over a year.


  12. The price goes up when you start adding all the additional fees onto the base cost of the license. Hunting licenses also discriminate against residents and non-residents, with the non-residents license being 100 bucks.

  13. I forgot y’all have to do the safety class to get the hunters permit there. That’s lame.

  14. The fees are little different in AZ for hunting. You need a general license before you can apply for big game.
    Combo Hunt & Fish – $54.00
    Deer Permit (drawing) – $42.25
    Elk Permit (drawing) – $121.50

    I don’t think any of our ranges are free. I like hunting and steel shooting so I belong to a local pistol club for $100/yr.

    You might be making a mistake to even attempt to try to change the P-R act. Politicians would love nothing better than to be able to manipulate these funds into the general funds and play with them. Go ahead and open that door – you could kiss it all goodbye then.

    This topic itself expends political capital with me as the first read elicited some strong feelings. You wouldn’t have any money going into the ranges if it were not for the hunters to begin with. Now that the pistol shooters have outpaced the money spent by the hunting community, you feel cheated? Right or wrong that is the initial reaction.

  15. During the Clinton administration, Hillary’s health care proposal raided Pittman Robertson funds for funding.

  16. Yes they did and that resulted in the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs Improvement Act of 2000 which precisely re-defines what USFWS can spend the excise taxes on and in what manner the monies can be spent. The NRA backed bill passed the House 423-2 and became law on Nov. 1, 2000
    Yeah NRA

    1. Thanks to Primeval Papa for mentioning Arizona. That’s a state known for its public ranges. And guess what? The facilities I found listed online charge.

      Even if we’re heading to an evolution in the model of funding, shooters are still going to have to pay for the facilities in some capacity. With hunting land, in theory, all that needs to be paid is the purchase price of the land up front. Then, if a game department wanted to leave it as-is, hunters could still use it. With shooting, a range cannot be left as-is. There are expectations of shooters for basic things like target backers. There are the tables and/or chairs that many require to sight in guns and keep their ammo nearby. Many shooters enjoy shooting under a covered area, so that might be an optional expense. Then you must have posted rules at each facility. Let’s not even get into talking about the berms & maintenance on that front. It simply costs more to shoot with even the most basic of services to the range. We’re going to have to pay for it.

      The alternative to us not paying for it is to have the facilities funded by general taxes. Do you really want anti-gun representatives from Philly to make decisions about those ranges? This new permit is a much better option. I think the biggest fault of the Game Commission in all of this is not putting information up on their website to explain the issues in more detail. (Hell, even information that a change will be coming would be nice. Right now they still tout that it’s free, and that will change in just a hair over a month.) It would help calm the instinctive reaction that many have had to the idea of paying a little more if they were a little more forthcoming about everything & just how much it costs to provide what many shooters take advantage of at their local ranges.

Comments are closed.