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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gotta Love Paranoia

Fear of gun control fills government coffers

Fears of a new administration enacting radical gun control had people stocking up on guns and ammo last year.

Now, it has wildlife agencies nationwide rolling in the dough. Receipts for the Pitman-Robertson Fund, funded by an excise tax on guns and ammunition, are up 40 percent nationwide. In Montana, that has translated into a $3.5 million increase in cash for wildlife conservation, according to Adam Brooks, federal aid program manager at the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The tax, which is collected by the federal government, is levied on firearm and ammunition manufacturers. The proceeds are distributed based on states' shares of hunters and habitat. Montana's $12.5 million apportionment was delivered Feb. 12, Brooks said. The taxes were collected between Sept. 31, 2008, and Oct. 1, 2009, and the increase correlates with the 2008 national election, which was marked in the West by heated debates over what -- if any -- gun control legislation Barack Obama would pursue if elected.

"A lot of it is related to the run on guns and bullets right after President Obama was elected," said Ken McDonald, wildlife division administrator with FWP. He said the windfall will be worked into a budget submitted to the Legislature for approval, and FWP officials aren't expecting the funding increase to continue. "We kind of expect it to be a blip," McDonald said. Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, attributed the increase to "political uncertainty and economic uncertainty." "It's not just Obama in the political uncertainty," he said. "It's possible legislation on a federal level, the administration signing on to a global gun-ban treaty, the dependence of America on imported ammunition." A year into his presidency, Obama has signed bills into law allowing guns in national parks and on Amtrak trains and received an "F" from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence earlier this year. Congress passed the Pitman-Robertson Act in 1938 "to counteract the wildlife crisis by providing local funding" for wildlife research, habitat and public education, according to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Congress passed a similar act aimed at helping fish habitat in 1950 called the Dingell-Johnson Act. That tax is levied on fishing tackle and last year saw a 3.5 percent decrease over the previous year, Brooks said. Daniel Person can be reached at or 582-2665. Correction -- This story originally misreported the change in the state's share of a separate tax levied on fishing gear. Receipts from the Dingell-Johnson Fund were down 3.5 percent. The text above has been edited to reflect this correction.