A nation of rifleman used to be a significant part of national defense. The bi-partisan passage of the “range bill” is an acknowledgment that promoting target practice is part of promoting national defense.
The bill is important because firing ranges are constantly under attack by those who wish for a disarmed population. The bill allows states to access excise taxes collected on the sale of ammunition and guns for the construction and improvement of shooting ranges. From NSSF Press Release:
The Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act, also known as the “Range Bill,” allows states to use their Pittman-Robertson Fund allocations to begin construction of new ranges, or improve existing state-run public recreational shooting ranges. Prior to this law’s enactment, states were required to put up 25 percent of the cost of range construction projects to access the matching 75 percent of Pittman-Robertson funds. Now, states can access those funds with a 10 percent match and will have five fiscal years to acquire land for range construction or expansion projects.
Pittman-Robertson funds are derived from an excise tax paid by firearms and ammunition manufacturers. Since 1937, the fund has generated more than $12.5 billion funding wildlife conservation and safety education programs in all 50 states. NSSF estimates more than 80 percent of Pittman-Robertson excise tax contributions are generated by sales attributed to recreational shooting. This means today’s recreational target shooter is an overwhelming contributor to conservation through excise tax support.
A recurring concern of recreational shooters, and those considering entering the sport, is proximity and access to a safe range. This new law would make it easier for states to enable recreational target shooters to enter the sport, which in turn would generate continued contributions to Pittman-Robertson funds and the conservation programs which it supports.
President Teddy Roosevelt promoted target practice as a means of preventing war and of projecting national power. From goodreads.com:
“The great body of our citizens shoot less as times goes on. We should encourage rifle practice among schoolboys, and indeed among all classes, as well as in the military services by every means in our power. Thus, and not otherwise, may we be able to assist in preserving peace in the world… The first step – in the direction of preparation to avert war if possible, and to be fit for war if it should come – is to teach men to shoot!”
President Roosevelt understood that theory without action is impotent. As President, Theodore Roosevelt converted his thoughts into practical action. From accurateshooter.com:
In February 1903, an amendment to the War Department Appropriations Bill established the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice (NBPRP). This government advisory board became the predecessor to today’s Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety, Inc. that now governs the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). The 1903 legislation also established the National Matches, commissioned the National Trophy and provided funding to support the Matches. This historic legislation grew out of a desire to improve military marksmanship and national defense preparedness. President Theodore Roosevelt, Secretary of War Elihu Root and NRA President General Bird Spencer were among the most important supporters of this act.
President Theodore Roosevelt was following the example of England. England had created an National Rifle Association in 1860, and had promoted rifle practice with national matches before the United States NRA was formed. From wikikpedia.com:
The NRA of England was founded 12 years before the American NRA. According to wikipedia, it was founded “for the promotion of marksmanship in the interests of Defence of the Realm and permanence of the Volunteer Forces, Navy, Military and Air”
A friend who I met in Panama, Dr. Nickolas Smythe, related to me how, as a boy, in the 1950s, he bicycled around the English countryside with a .22 rifle on his handlebars, going to various matches, because the government wished to encourage rifle marksmanship
As technology advances, many have stated that riflemen are or will become obsolete. The threat of nuclear weapons was supposed to make infantry obsolete. The demise of the rifleman has not occurred. In several recent conflicts, riflemen remain relevant.
While the battlefield shifts with defense and offense gaining relative strength; while smart weapons, drones, autonomous vehicles and directed energy weapons all change the battlespace; ground must still be held by men with personal weapons in their hands.
It may be, as technological development makes it harder for a conventional rifleman to survive, insurgents with concealable weapons will become more important. They are not as easily identified and destroyed by drones or robots.
As long as human governments rule, men with weapons will be relevant.
Promoting skill in the use of weapons does more than merely increase the skill level in the population. It promotes a mindset of discipline, ordered competence, and independence. Armed men think and act differently than unarmed men.