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Senate shuts down Sportsmen's Act

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

In a somewhat shocking turn of events, the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2014 was put to rest after a 41-56 procedural vote on Thursday. The legislation needed 60 votes to advance. 

The reason for the defeat was a "spat over amendments" that led Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to use a procedural maneuver to block changes to the bill on Wednesday. Reid accused the GOP of wanting a slew of amendments designed to kill the bill, reports Politico. The amendments were related to gun control.

Just days earlier, the bill had had broad bipartisan support and had cleared the first procedural hurdle in an 82-12 vote. 

The proposal by Senators Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was billed as a bipartisan breakthrough when it was first introduced last winter. Before that point, both liberals and conservatives had introduced their own sportsmen’s packages. 

The Bipartisan Sportsman’s Act of 2014 featured an array of provisions to expand public access and conserve fish and wildlife habitat, making it a key piece of legislature for America’s 40 million sportsmen. 

One of the provisions of the bill allows states to devote a greater percentage of federal funds levied from ammunition taxes to create and maintain public target ranges.

“This is important because we are currently facing a shortage of public shooting ranges across the country,” said Sen. Kay Hagan, D-North Carolina, who along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is one of the leading supporters of the bill. 

The bill also would have increased access to federal land for hunting and fishing and allowed duck hunters to obtain their federal stamps electronically. It would also have loosened regulations on lead fishing tackle and ammunition. 

As of now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not regulate ammunition or fishing equipment, but a number of pro-environmental organizations have sued the agency to do so. Pro-sporting groups maintain that such restrictions would lead to a jump in prices for ammunition and fishing gear. 

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which represents the firearms industry, had encouraged its members to vocalize their support for the bill, dubbing it “the most important package of measures for the benefit of sportsmen in a generation.”

While an overwhelming majority of the Senate voted to advance the measure, the two senators from Connecticut, Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, whose state was shaken after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, said they could not vote for cloture because the measure does not address gun violence.

“I can see the legitimate reasons to vote for this bill, but not when this body has failed in its fundamental obligation to make America safer and to rid it of gun violence,” Blumenthal said. 

Lawrence Keane, a spokesman for NSSF, noted that the bill does not focus on Second Amendment rights. 

“It’s a sportsman’s bill, not a gun bill,” Kean has said. 

The bill also faced strong opposition from certain environmental and animal rights groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity and the Humane Society of the United States.

Bipartisan Sportsman’s Act provisions:

  • The Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act of 2013, which authorizes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to allow any state to provide federal duck stamps electronically
  • The Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act, which exempts lead fishing tackle from being regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act
  • The Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act, which allows states to devote a greater proportion of federal funding to create and maintain shooting ranges on federal and non-federal lands
  • The Duck Stamp Subsistence Waiver, which enables the Secretary of the Interior to make limited waivers of Duck Stamp requirements for certain subsistence users
  • The Polar Bear Conservation and Fairness Act, which allows the Secretary of the Interior to authorize permits for re-importation of previously legally harvested Polar Bears from approved populations in Canada before the 2008 ban
  • The Farmer and Hunter Protection Act, authorizing USDA extension offices to define normal agricultural practices rather than the Fish and Wildlife Service
  • The Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act, which requires federal land managers to consider how management plans affect opportunities to engage in hunting, fishing and recreational shooting and requiring the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service to keep BLM lands open to these activities
  • Permits for Film Crews of Five People or Less, in which the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture will require annual permits and assess annual fees for filming on federal lands
  • Making Public Lands Public, and requiring that 1.5% of annual Land and Water Conservation Fund monies be made available to secure public access to existing federal lands that have restricted access to hunting, fishing and other recreational activities
  • The North American Wetlands Conservation Act Reauthorization, which provides matching grants to organizations, state and local governments, and private landowners for the acquisition, restoration, and enhancement of wetlands habitat critical to migratory birds
  • The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Reauthorization, reauthorizing NFWF, a nonprofit that conserves and restores native wildlife species and habitats
  • The Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act, which enables states to allocate a greater proportion of federal funding to create and maintain shooting ranges
  • The Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act Reauthorization, which enables the Bureau of Land Management to disburse public lands to private entities, county governments, and others for the purposes of ranching, public works, and related projects and invest the revenue received to obtain additional conservation lands

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