The Senate just saw the bipartisan introduction of S.593, the Target and Marksmanship Training Support Act of 2017, which will mean more funding for existing public shooting ranges, and for the construction of new ones, taken from the excise tax charged on all guns and ammo.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) praised the bill, which is sponsored by Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Michael Bennet (D-CO), John Boozman (R-AR), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).

“This legislation would provide state fish and game agencies more flexibility to use Pittman-Robertson excise taxes dollars raised from the sale of firearms and ammunition to enhance existing public shooting ranges and to build new ones to meet the growing need for additional places for target shooters to participate in their sport,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel in a release.

“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,” he added.

The release says the senators cited the economic benefits of sustaining the shooting sports, as well as continued access to public range facilities for citizens to practice marksmanship skills. Money paid in excise taxes is what sustains construction and maintenance of public ranges.

The legislation mirrors bills introduced in previous Congressional sessions, but they were never put forward for a vote and presidential approval.

‘”As a West Virginian, I know how important shooting sports are to our economy, and to our proud hunting heritage,” said Sen. Capito in the release. “I am glad to join with my colleagues to reintroduce this bipartisan legislation that responsibly encourages improved federal, state and local cooperation to create and maintain shooting ranges, and encourage their continued use.”

“There are countless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors in North Dakota, but a growing population has put extra pressure on our public shooting ranges. That’s why I’m proud to reintroduce this bipartisan bill to expand outdoor recreation for our sportsmen and women,” said Senator Heitkamp. “Working together at the federal, state, and local levels, we can guarantee that facilities where folks enjoy marksmanship and target practice thrive for generations to come — and this bill would help accomplish that goal.”

The release says that since 1937, almost $11 billion has been raised for wildlife conservation through the Pittman-Robertson excise tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition. Some of the funds can be used by states for hunter education courses and for public shooting ranges under a restrictive formula that has largely discouraged state agencies from building and enhancing public shooting ranges, the release says.

From the release: “The legislation would provide states greater flexibility on their ability to use Pittman-Robertson excise tax funds by increasing the cap of federal funds accrued for the creation and maintenance of shooting ranges from 75 to 90 percent. This means states could begin work on range facilities with 10 percent matching funds, instead of the current 25 percent.”

“It would also excise funds to be made available and accrue for five years for land acquisition or range construction. The legislation would also limit frivolous lawsuits that might result from the use of federal land for target practice and encourage federal agencies to cooperate with state and local authorities for maintenance of ranges on federal lands.”

Most of the excise tax comes from the sale of firearms and ammunition products.

“That money is directly responsible for habitat conservation, recreational shooting and wildlife management, making gun owners, hunters and manufacturers largest financial supporters of wildlife conservation throughout the United States,” the release says.