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Fears of gun control boost state coffers

Salesman Larry Allen shows a customer a gun at the Cabela's store in Fort Worth, Texas.
REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi
Salesman Larry Allen shows a customer a gun at the Cabela's store in Fort Worth, Texas.

The historian Richard Hofstadter famously wrote about the paranoid style in American politics — you think it's bad now? This was in 1964 — and subsequent commentators have reinforced the idea that a certain percentage of the citizens of the republic believe in conspiracy theories, the apocalypse and an anti-Viking football officiating crew at every game.

Politicians can profit from the "suspicious discontent" of the electorate, of course. Sometimes even governments can profit. Such is the case in Minnesota.


As documented by John Helland at Conservation Minnesota here, the state's bank account for fish and wildlife spending is getting an extra $4 million to $5 million because folks are buying ammunition before President Obama bans or restricts firearms.

Perhaps you have not heard about The Ban on guns, or bullets, or shells. That might be because the current administration has not introduced legislation to fool with our Second Amendment rights. But… it could. And if that means I need to drop $13 on a box of No. 6 pheasant loads to make sure I can hunt next fall…

The sales boost in the ammunition business includes an increased collection in a federal excise tax on bullets and sporting arms (11 percent) and handguns (10 percent) that gets split among the states. The tax goes into the Pittman-Robertson Fund, which was created in 1937 by Nevada Sen. Key Pittman and Virginia Rep. A. W. Robertson (he was TV preacher Pat Robertson's dad) for conservation purposes.

Hunting, fishing funding
That tax is part of a long history of hunters and anglers taxing themselves (see: stamps, duck) in order to fund habitat preservation and restoration and many other valuable conservation programs. Pittman-Robertson generates in the neighborhood of $700 million annually, which is sent back to the states. The states match 25 cents to 75 cents of the federal dollar.

Tim Spielman at Outdoor News reports that Minnesota will get $5 million more than last year's $10 million. Helland reported that the latest figures show an increase of $102 million nationally in the fund, a 34 percent jump over the previous fiscal year.

Our extra money goes to the Game and Fish Fund in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Wisconsin is also expecting about $4 million extra. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, each state's apportionment is determined by a formula that considers the total area of the state and the number of licensed hunters in the state.

Wildlife Management Areas are a popular funding target, as are hunter education programs. DNR officials told Spielman that the extra money will help keep the state fund in the black or stave off the next license increase, rather than be spent on new projects.

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Comments (14)

I think it's deeply ironic that our motto is "the land of the free and the home of the brave," because if one feature of our society can be isolated to best explain our politics, media and system of justice -- and this cowardly, headlong rush for ammo is only the latest example -- it is that America is the most terrified society in the world.

What on Earth has made this comfortable, well fed country so helplessly frightened? And in my view, the people who talk the toughest are the most frightened of all. Judging by his rush to dunk every terrorist and militarize every basic gesture towards national security, emotionally, Dick Cheney is your basic small boy hiding in a closet.

LIkewise, it's hard not to read the Times piece the other day on the Tea Party protesters, Michelle Bachmann just our own little embarrassing contribution, and not come to the conclusion that they are panic stricken fantasists with too much time on their hands and newly having discovered the Internet, manifesting their unspoken horror at our age of so much rapid change, having been victimized by the free market system in which they had placed so much trust and, of course the confusing sight of a black president.

Paul, you latte sipping, art snob what do you think gives you the right to question our paranoia? I mean some of us are so terrified we don't even know where to aim our guns. The gervinment, big banks, gays wearing black leather with pink fronds at the olympics, lady gaga, a woman on mans skis fer chriss sakes thats why we got shotguns plus that plains pheasant is pretty tasty. I aim high cuz Im always slow on the draw.

And of course the firearms industry doesn't put an end to the paranoia. Every sale is important and they don't care if comes from a healthy interest in firearms and shooting sports or political paranoia. People think the gun industry is some huge, rich industry, but in realiity it is relatively small companies selling through dealers who make about $25 to $50 on a typical sale. They will take all the sales they can get.

The paranoia, if that's what it is, has led to some interesting developments in the firearms world. Gun Shows have been popular for decades. But it is most interesting now to see stores like Gander Mountain (in Wausau WI) featuring enormous collections of used firearms, which carry hefty prices.

One also wonders about the proportion of these increased sales of guns and ammunitions to women buyers. The Gander Mt. collection is heavily sprinkled with small, pink-colored stocks of shotguns and rifles. As a result, an impressive portion of the shotguns on the racks are also, pink or not, of relatively small bore--20 gauge or .410.

It may well be that the fear of anti-gun legislation is only part of the story. With more and more women taking part in formerly all-male activities, and the consequent full-family involvement in firearm sports, we may have a social redefinition of guns and hunting.

Fear of gun control? What a load of hooey! You'll be allowed to pack in America's National Parks for the first time since the 1880s beginning Feb. 22, under legislation signed by none other than President Obama. There's no anti-gun legislation out there -- it's precisely the opposite! Too bad the press (including the author of this article) didn't do the legwork instead of assuming some sort of nefarious legislation was waiting in the wings.

I attempted to make clear, perhaps not successfully, that no legislation was in the works. I have also written about the guns-in-parks issue several times, including here: http://tinyurl.com/ddhch4.

Too bad we don't have a press worthy of the name. Or a resurrection of Fair Comment and Equal Time on our nation's broadcast airwaves.

Wrong law, Mark; what you wrote about is not what Obama signed into law. You may want to catch up on what's happened in the last year. You kinda proved my point.

Kevin, are you referring to the Coburn amendment in the credit card legislation? If so, I see your point.

I find it ironic ... that the author and the like have used "fear" and "paranoia" to pigeonhole those who would say to ANY fellow law-abiding citizen, "I don't have a problem with you owning or carrying a gun".

I'm curious ... aside from the hundreds of lives that MIGHT otherwise be saved each year ... far less, than that caused by automobiles ... what EXACTLY, is the reason you desire to relieve me of the right (despite the apparent ineptitude of the Founding Fathers), to own or carry a gun?

Is it fear?

Is it paranoia?

Is it simply a "just" battle that can somewhat easily be won? (see Great Britain, Australia, and to a lesser extent, Canada) Nothing inflates an ego like winning a battle ... does it?

Just curious.

For the record, the late, great Col. Jeff Cooper once proclaimed the NRA "the greatest civil rights organization in the world". I see absolutely no evidence to the contrary.

At which, I find myself, a somewhat unwitting "civil rights activist".

I'll give you 3 guesses as to what that makes YOU.

I do, however, appreciate you pointing out the tip of the iceberg which is the effect on the economy (can you say "Obama found religion"?) of such bans ... the likes of which, the hypocrisy of our own elected officials could not possibly withstand

Now ... seriously ... don't you have something BETTER to do with your time?

Bill, "I'm curious ... aside from the hundreds of lives that MIGHT otherwise be saved each year ... far less, than that caused by automobiles ... what EXACTLY, is the reason you desire to relieve me of the right (despite the apparent ineptitude of the Founding Fathers), to own or carry a gun?"

No one is desiring that outside of your imagination, which pretty much proves the point of the article.

Then gain, given the extra revenue coming into state coffers when it's needed so badly, hurrah for paranoia!

Hmmm. Paranoia does, indeed, seem to be part of at least one of the responses above. Not for a moment do I believe there's some sort of nefarious plot to "deprive" Americans of gun ownership.

I lived on Colorado's Front Range for 12 years, and – curiously, since Colorado has its share of 2nd Amendment zealots – while there were a handful of "gun clubs" that required a hefty membership fee, there were no rifle or pistol ranges open to the public within an hour's drive of metro Denver.

I have several muzzle-loading rifles and pistols – copies of early and mid-19th-century firearms – that I built from kits, and I also own several modern, cartridge-firing weapons. Because there were no public ranges, none of them were fired for the dozen years I lived in Colorado.

When I moved to Minnesota last year, lo, and behold, there was a pistol range open to the public only a couple miles from the house I bought. I've since purchased a small-caliber semi-automatic pistol from a local dealer specifically so that I could shoot at that range.

I very much enjoy the outdoors, and hike many miles every summer, but I have no interest in hunting. I just like to shoot. I bought a pistol because I wanted to, and I could afford it. I shoot it because I enjoy target shooting. If doing so sweetens the pot a little bit for Minnesota's outdoor environment, so much the better. I'm happy to make that small contribution, especially when just about everything in the state budget is bleeding from cuts.

If we define "paranoia" as the fear of something that isn't actually there, and then observe that there is no plan in the Obama administration to restrict gun ownership in any way, then it follows that the rush to buy ammunition in anticipation of a non-existent presidential campaign to take our guns away fits the definition of "paranoid."

I cannot help regarding the present rush to stock up on ammo as a kind of arms race. I've got to have at least as many bullets as my neighbors, don't I, or else they'd outlast me in a shootout! Isn't this what it's really all about?

And I cannot help but regard Second Amendment fanaticism generally as the work of the gun-sales lobby rather than as the work of any group that actually has a sound understanding of either civil rights or modern warfare. Surely the former are best protected by a well-informed citizens who vote their conscience without fear, and surely wars are won nowadays not by amateurs with rifles, but by much better organized armies with much more sophisticated hardware.

But don't get me wrong. I think it's fine for ordinary US-American citizens to carry firearms outdoors and in most public places, especially if the guns are clearly visible and not concealed, so that I can get ready to duck if I have to. I do have a problem with legalized concealment (How're you supposed to deter criminals by carrying a gun they can't see?), but that's for another letter.

And now Mark Neuzil has given me new reason to be more tolerant of my better-armed neighbors. I already appreciate the work that ethical hunters do in managing the size of large game stocks. Now I have new appreciation for the money that the simple trick of licensing contributes toward the funding of environmental stewardship. Perhaps it is even time for me to say "thank you"!

Those of you who may not pay a lot of attention to the whole Second Amemdment issue might not know about Obama and his record on the issue. Just after his election, his transition team rolled out his anti-gun agenda (http://www.nraila.org/pdfs/obamaurbanpolicy.pdf) which included the following key initiatives:

1. "Making the expired federal assault weapons ban permanent." Perhaps no other firearm issue has been more dishonestly portrayed by gun prohibitionists. Notwithstanding their predictions that the ban's expiration in 2004 would bring about the end of civilization, for the last four years the nation's murder rate has been lower than anytime since the mid-1960s. Studies for Congress, the Congressional Research Service, the National Institute of Justice, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found no evidence that gun prohibition or gun control reduces crime. Guns that were affected by the ban are used in only a tiny fraction of violent crime-about 35 times as many people are murdered without any sort of firearm (knives, bare hands, etc.), as with "assault weapons." Obama says that "assault weapons" are machine guns that "belong on foreign battlefields," but that is a lie; the guns are only semi-automatic, and they are not used by a military force anywhere on the planet.
2. “Repeal the Tiahrt Amendment." The amendment--endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police--prohibits the release of federal firearm tracing information to anyone other than a law enforcement agency conducting a bona fide criminal investigation. Anti-gun activists oppose the restriction, because it prevents them from obtaining tracing information and using it in frivolous lawsuits against law-abiding firearm manufacturers. Their lawsuits seek to obtain huge financial judgments against firearm manufacturers when a criminal uses a gun to inflict harm, even though the manufacturers have complied with all applicable laws.
3. "Closing the gun show loophole." There is no "loophole." Under federal law, a firearm dealer must conduct a background check on anyone to whom he sells a gun, regardless of where the sale takes place. A person who is not a dealer may sell a gun from his personal collection without conducting a check. Gun prohibitionists claim that many criminals obtain guns from gun shows, though the most recent federal survey of convicted felons put the figure at only 0.7 percent. They also claim that non-dealers should be required to conduct checks when selling guns at shows, but the legislation they support goes far beyond imposing that lone requirement. In fact, anti-gun members of Congress voted against that limited measure, holding out for a broader bill intended to drive shows out of business.
4. "Making guns in this country childproof." "Childproof" is a codeword for a variety of schemes designed to prevent the sale of firearms by imposing impossible or highly expensive design requirements, such as biometric shooter-identification systems. While no one opposes keeping children safe, the fact is that accidental firearm-related deaths among children have decreased 86 percent since 1975, even as the numbers of children and guns have risen dramatically. Today, the chances of a child being killed in a firearm accident are less than one in a million.

The only reason BHO hasn't pushed for more gun control is that he is tied up with fighting other battles like the Cap & Trade scam, Health Care, and Illegal Immigration. I will give him credit for being smart enough not to push his anti-gun agenda right now...

Finally, while a member of the Illinois Legislature, Obama voted for a bill that would ban nearly every hunting rifle, shotgun and target rifle owned by Illinois citizens (ban would have impacted all semi-automatics). That same bill would have authorized the state police to raid homes of gun owners to forcibly confiscate banned guns. Obama supported a bill that would shut down law-abiding firearm manufacturers including Springfield Armory, Armalite, Rock River Arms and Les Baer. Obama voted to increase the cost of ammunition by 500%. Obama also voted for a bill that would prohibit law-abiding citizens from purchasing more than one gun per month. While a state senator, Obama voted 4 times against legislation that would allow a homeowner to use a firearm in defense of home and family. Does Barack Obama still sound to you like a "friend" of the law-abiding gun owner? And let's not forget Obama's pal George Soros - the guy who has pumped millions of dollars into the UN's international effort to disarm law-abiding citizens and millions more here in the United States supporting anti-gun groups such as Handgun Control Inc.