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Pittman-Robertson Windfall

The Pennsylvania Game commission is enjoying an influx of new money thanks to the Great Obama Gun Panic of 2013. I hope they manage to use some of that money for upkeep of public ranges in Pennsylvania, given that the vast majority of guns and ammunition purchased during the panic is more likely to be used for target shooting than for hunting. Pittman-Robertson places an excise tax on all guns and ammunition at the federal level, and grants that money to state game agencies. This has been a generally accepted tax within the shooting community for some time, but could potentially be called into question from a constitutional standpoint, because it’s unconstitutional to tax the exercise of a right.

11 Responses to “Pittman-Robertson Windfall”

  1. Merle says:

    IIRC sportsmen lobbied to get this tax, in order to help with wildlife management.

    Merle

  2. Andy B. says:

    “This has been a generally accepted tax within the shooting community for some time, but could potentially be called into question from a constitutional standpoint, because it’s unconstitutional to tax the exercise of a right.”

    This is probably another example of even our own community (at the time) being willing to wink at a violation of the constitution as long as it promised an outcome they favored. Others of course were, tacit acceptance of Second Amendment and other civil liberties violations, as long as they were offered as a package to Get Tough On Crime.

  3. Matthew Carberry says:

    This is probably a case of where ideological purity meets hard reality.

    What was the state of hunting,fishing, and shooting ranges at the time? What was the understanding of how the 2nd might apply?

    Absent sportsmen stepping up voluntarily, what were the chances the majority of voters, who don’t hunt, fish, or shoot with any serioysness, paying more in taxes to maintain those opportunities for the future as opposed to letting those sports die out and whatever wild lands remain be Disneyfied or unaccessible but for rich hippies?

    There’s still a strong greenie whacko movement in this country that would block any attempt to fund our “extremist bloodsports” with general funds. Absent severe growth in the new trend of some urbanites rediscovering their heritage I think we could see our sports strangled at the ballot box absent those P&R funds. And that trend couldn’t have happened without them.

  4. Matthew Carberry says:

    On additional thought, P-R was also democratizing. All sportsmen pay into it. Even the elite double-shooting, trap game, non-hunting private club member types, who would have the cash and pull to get exceptions for their hobby if the political winds shifted, end up supporting Joe Six-pack’s access to public lands to get his deer.

    It’s a unifying factor in a community that even today sees a lot of “I got mine” and dismissal of other’s favored flavors of guns and sport.

  5. thefirstndsecond says:

    It is also from the sale.of hunting licenses.

  6. Andy B. says:

    Just as long as we all agree with the “liberals” that a good outcome justifies violating the constitution. . .

    • Andy B. says:

      Oops, forgot my smiley-face. :-)

      All in good cheer. . .

      • Matthew Carberry says:

        No worries.

        I just disagree with the framing.

        Sometimes knowingly choosing (particulary when the choice is voluntary) a lesser of two evils in the short term (history does show that when reality can be shifted to match ideality those choices can be reversed) is better than choosing the perfect and effectively sacrificing the ability to reverse the situation ever in the future.

        You aren’t trying to gain a “good outcome” as opposed to forestalling an absolutely abhorrent one.

  7. Phssthpok says:

    “…because it’s unconstitutional to tax the exercise of a right.”

    Silly blogger…whatever gave you that idea?

    Is laboring to provide for your own sustenance not a right? That gets taxed EVERY TIME YOU DO IT.

    • Sebastian says:

      Maybe it should be, but that notion was jettisoned pretty early in the 20th century. I’m usually talking about what the law is, not what it should be.

  8. Richard says:

    How is this different from a sales tax on books that could tax a first amendment right? Pittman Robertson does not tax “keeping and bearing” only selling. There is also a 6% sales tax on guns in Pa.

    Whether the Federal Govt. can constitutional have such an internal duty when sales don’t cross state lines, is another matter.

    Interesting side story about applicability of the excise and definition of “firearm” I believe this case ruined the late John Bivins financially:
    http://www.trackofthewolf.com/pdfs/catalog/page_118.pdf

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