Gun Violence Research And Public Funding for Gun Ranges – What Nonprofits Need To Know

What should the government do with tax revenues? This is the age-old question of appropriations that applies to all Americans. As more and more federal grant dollars are drying up, nonprofits might be particularly concerned with how tax dollars or public revenues are re-granted – and to whom. Millions of dollars are granted annually to fund shooting ranges, for instance, paid in full by excise taxes from arms and ammunition sales. (Also read “How to use“)

Could that funding go to a greater good, however, especially considering that American taxpayers conservatively shell out $229 billion for the cost of gun violence annually?

Here is what you need to know about public funding for gun ranges and gun violence research:


gun violence research and public funding for gun ranges


Pittman-Robertson funds for gun ranges

In 1937, the federal government passed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act authorizing tax revenues from the sale of arms and ammunitions go to State Fish and Game Agencies. The federal tax on those sales is 11 percent. Per an amendment to the Act in 1970, $8 million per year has to go to “hunter education” programs, often translating to public gun ranges. That money, specifically, is a half percent of the federal tax collected for handgun and archery equipment purchases. Participating states have discretion of where their appropriations go. 25 states are currently participating and filtering money to public gun range projects, according to the NRA. The current Pittman-Robertson Act stipulates that states have to match 25% of any public project to which funds go. Hence millions more dollars from local taxpayers in those states are going toward gun ranges as well.

New legislation in debate to broaden gun range funding

In 2012, the Pittman-Robertson Fund apportioned $271 million to state wildlife agencies. That funding has grown since to more than a billion annually, from a tremendous spike in the sale of ammunition and arms in the US in recent years. Now, Pew Research estimates that there are more than 300 million guns owned by Americans – that’s one gun for 9 in 10 Americans (though only around 37% of households have guns).

A group of House Representatives have put forward a bill, H.R. 788, to reduce the state funding match requirement to receive and use federal funding for shooting range development from 25 percent to 10 percent. For example, a range project in Pennsylvania has a budget of $500,000. Developers (whether private or public, like a local park) only have to come up with $50,000 instead of having to come up with $125,000 of match money from local sources or from a state fund.  The change would push millions more federal revenues directly to local shooting range development.

How much public funding goes to gun violence research?

Since 1996, hardly any funding has gone to understanding the causes and correlations of gun violence, despite the near $13 million dollars treating gun injuries and deaths costs Americans daily. The Dickey Amendment in 1996 practically bans the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from conducting any research into effects or causes of gun violence. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has had a bit of funding since 2014 but still gives relatively little. Since the Obama Administration made funding available, they gave more for research in rare illnesses like polio and rabies than for gun injuries or death. Plus their funding for gun-related research was not renewed in 2017.

Gun-related violence is one of the leading causes of death in America, claiming more than 30,000 annually. That’s now more than car-related deaths. That means that we are trickling millions of dollars federally and locally into gun range development in the name of “safety”, but we are not spending anything on preventing gun violence with research and science.


Considering the public cost of gun violence, surely having more opportunities to practice safe shooting and shooting safety is a wonderful investment. But an even better investment may be focusing on research and solution-seeking for how to curb the violence that stems from the guns in the first place. Not only might we save lives, but we can surely work to reduce the devastating costs to communities.

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