It seems rare these days that a bill gains strong bi-partisan support, but by most accounts the Sportsmen’s Act had done just that. And yet, politicians found a way to make it divisive. Not because of what the bill contains, but the manner in which it’s being promoted.
You see, the Sportsmen’s Act is the brainchild of Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, a lifelong hunter with an NRA “A” rating. Given that Tester is in for a tight battle for his seat this November, Republicans are suspicious of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) decision to tout the Sportsmen’s Act in the waning moments of the current session. Is Reid promoting the Sportsmen’s Act in order for Tester to win last-minute favor among sportsmen?
“[Reid's actions are] just strictly political,” Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) told Politico. According to Politico, when asked how much of the push had to do with Tester’s race, Kyl said, “approximately 100 percent.”
Reid has not called for a formal vote on the Sportsmen’s Act. Rather, he’s announced a procedural motion in which senators will vote on whether to take up the Sportsmen’s Act following the November election.
So, is the motion simply political posturing by Reid, or is he serious about getting the ball rolling on this important piece of legislation? And should we care?
The important thing, according to most sportsmen’s groups, is that this bill hits the floor for a vote, even if it takes a little politicking. The act is ripe with benefits for sportsmen, including these top priorities noted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation:
The Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act — Specifically excludes ammunition and fishing tackle from the Toxic Substances Control Act, preventing unnecessary regulations that could devastate hunting, shooting, conservation funding and the firearm and ammunition industries.
Making Public Lands Public — Requires that the 1.5 percent of annual Land and Water Conservation Fund funding is made available to secure public access to federal public land for hunting, fishing, and other recreational purposes.
Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act — Makes Pittman-Robertson funds available to states for a longer period of time for the creation and maintenance of shooting ranges. The bill encourages federal land agencies to cooperate with state and local authorities to maintain shooting ranges and limits liability for these agencies.
Other sportsmen’s groups that support the bill include the Archery Trade Association, Boone and Crockett Club, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Dallas Safari Club, Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, National Rifle Association, National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Quality Deer Management Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ruffed Grouse Society and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
All urge you to call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to ask your senators to vote YES in procedural support of the actual vote later this fall on the Sportsmen’s Act.
UPDATE: By a vote of 84-7 early Saturday, the Senate has affirmed that it will take up the Sportsmen’s Act during its next session. Given that it’s scheduled after the November elections, your vote is critical to passing this legislation.