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California Lawmakers Want to Limit Gun Raffles Benefitting Conservation Efforts

First they came after the AR-15s, now they come after gun raffles benefitting conservation.

A newly-introduced bill in the California legislature would severely cripple conservation efforts in the Golden State if passed.

AB 3199, which would amend how firearms are transferred, would limit gun raffles hosted by nonprofits to three a year under this proposed bill. Prominent wildlife and habitat conservation groups heavily rely on gun raffles to raise money for their efforts—even in California. Excise taxes collected on firearms—much like hunting and fishing licenses—directly go back to conservation efforts through the Pittman Robertson Act to be administered in individual states.

This provision to limit gun raffles to three a year was introduced by Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena). Holden originally wanted to ban all gun raffles, but settled on this move instead.

“This would put a limit on it, to be sure,” Holden told The Sacramento Bee. “We think that's a reasonable one … I’m not quite sure why someone would want to raffle off an AR-15, but this would at least create a reasonable set of standards of how that would be done, and (ensure) it's in compliance with the law.”

Here's how AB 3199 would place limitations on gun raffles, which directly benefit conservation efforts:

This bill would repeal these exemptions for charitable auctions and would instead authorize a charitable organization, as specified, to conduct no more than 3 auctions, raffles, or similar events per year in which firearms, other than handguns, may be auctioned, raffled, or otherwise sold, and would require those firearms to be transferred to a licensed dealer to process the transfer pursuant to all legal requirements, including a background check and waiting period.

Renowned conservation group Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation would be among the many organizations adversely affected by this measure if it were to pass. Here's how their impact could be affected:

Many organizations, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation included, conduct raffles in California to generate funding that is put back on the ground to benefit wildlife. RMEF has 32 different chapters and approximately 13,400 members statewide. About half of the $1 million it raises within the state on an annual basis comes via gun raffles.

The California chapter of National Wild Turkey Federation issued this legislative action item encouraging their members to voice opposition against AB 3199:

This bill would have serious negative effects on fundraising by charitable organizations in the state of California. Passage of this bill could lead to less funding for State Wildlife Areas, habitat conservation projects, and many other vital projects critical to wildlife in California

California Waterfowlers issued this statement condemning the proposed legislation, by citing how excise taxes from firearms purchases directly benefit conservation efforts via the Pittman Robertson Act:

Funding conservation with guns is not a new concept: 81 years ago, hunters agreed to tax themselves with the federal Pittman-Robertson Act, which places an 11 percent excise tax on guns and ammunition. The proceeds go primarily to support wildlife habitat, and since this act was passed, it has raised more than $2 billion, and states have matched this funding with more than $500 million...There is no evidence that guns won at California Waterfowl – or any – fundraising events are contributing to gun violence. AB 3199, which would restrict charitable organizations to no more than three events per year with gun raffles, is worse than a solution in search of a problem; it would prove extremely damaging to organizations like ours that ensure wildlife have a place to live and thrive amid the relentless expansion of human development across our state. It creates a victim where there was none before: wildlife.

First they came after the AR-15s, now they come after gun raffles benefitting true conservation efforts.

The AR-15, like other firearms, is largely discriminated against for its perceived "scary" aesthetics. The scaremongering that results from this unfair castigation of firearms—which are inanimate objects misused by criminals—have severely hurt efforts to promote actual gun safety, education, and now conservation. Conservatives and Republican lawmakers have rightly warned that undue regulation of firearms, instead of the enforcement of existing laws, would have adverse effects on other aspects of life—with conservation efforts being the latest target, as illustrated in this case.

California lawmakers would be very remiss to push this bill as groups like Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and their chapters there rely on these gun raffles to raise money for conservation. If you've attended a hunting-oriented banquet like I have, rifles are a huge staple there. Nobody gets harmed or perturbed by their presence. These evenings are marked by good times, better company, and thousands of dollars risen to save local habitats and wildlife species. So what if AR-15 type, semi-automatic rifles are auctioned off? They are done so in a safe and responsible manner—with proceeds directly going back to habitat and wildlife restoration efforts.

It's important to remind our peers that hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts preach, practice, and encourage gun safety. Maligning them further will do nothing to reduce mass shootings or homicides. They deserve to be stakeholders in matters concerning public safety, not scapegoated or undermined. They handle firearms on a daily basis, unlike many of these so-called gun safety advocates who endlessly screech and clamor for gun disarmament under the guise of "reform."

As I've argued here at The Resurgent before, attacking shooting sports and hunting—as hunters and anglers foot the bill for 80% of restoration efforts— is a dangerous move. If this bill passes, it could be replicated nationwide—as most ill-fated policies happen to spread from California outward. Let's hope the Golden State's hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts organize to defeat this bill, which attacks their lifestyle and their efforts to promote true conservation.

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