Wyoming Game and Fish anticipating drop in funding from gun sales
JACKSON, Wyo. — Wyoming Game and Fish officials are anticipating a decline in gun sales that could hurt the agency’s bottom line by reducing federal gun tax collections that are shared with the state.
The federal Pittman-Robertson Act imposes an 11 percent federal excise tax on firearm and ammunition sales, and proceeds from the tax are shared with state wildlife agencies across the nation, including Wyoming’s.
In recent years, the funding has accounted for around 20 percent of the Game and Fish Department’s operating budget. Agency Commissioner Charles Price said gun sales were robust under President Barack Obama.
“Obama’s been our best fundraiser,” Price told the Jackson Hole News & Guide. “Our revenue under Pittman-Robertson went from about $5 million a year to somewhere around $15 million per year. That’s a lot of money.”
Pittman-Robertson funding is one of the reasons Wyoming Game and Fish is on stable financial footing now, spokesman Renny MacKay said.
At various times during the Obama administration, “there was pretty substantive concern among hunters and recreational shooters that somehow the administration might take regulatory steps to manage the purchase of firearms and ammo,” said Ron Regan, executive director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “People went out and bought those products with some amount of vigor.”
Regan said gun owners may feel less compelled to stock up in the years ahead, which could drive down Pittman-Robertson income. State wildlife agencies must apply for the funding.
Rob Southwick, a hunting and angling economist, said gun sales are already showing signs of slowing.
“We do see them shrinking a little bit right now,” Southwick said. “Numbers of firearm sales have gone down about 20 percent since this time last year.”
Ammunition sales likely won’t fall off as significantly because people are likely to keep using the firearms already in their possession, Southwick said. He also didn’t anticipate gun sales falling as low as they were before Obama, owing to a “cultural shift” and a boom in target shooting.