This article originally appeared in the Fall 2022 Edition of Michigan Out-of-Doors.
By Justin Tomei, Michigan United Conservation Clubs Policy Assistant
In 2013, Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) members passed a resolution asking the organization to educate the public regarding the importance of the Second Amendment and its role in funding conservation:
AC130613-Second Amendment Resolution: Educate the public on the importance of the 2nd Amendment and its importance to funding conservation in Michigan and work with the legislature and administration to advance thoughtful firearm policy in this state to conserve, protect, and enhance the rights of lawful individuals.
The 1937 Pittman-Robertson Act (PR), which levies an 11% excise tax on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment, is considered monumental legislation by conservationists. This money accounts for roughly 25 percent of Michigan’s wildlife management, including game and nongame species.
The Second Amendment and conservation
Still, many hunters and conservationists remain unaware of the value recreational shooting plays in conservation.
In May 2022, the National Shooting Sports Foundation published a blog highlighting the $1.5 billion the United States Fish and Wildlife Service dispersed in PR dollars in 2021 — $1.1 billion of that was directly from the firearms and ammunition industry.
Recreational shooting accounts for about 80 percent of PR dollars — 80 percent! The AR platform rifle is the most common firearm in America, with at least 20 million AR platform firearms in the United States.
In 2020, the Smith & Wesson M&P-15 rifle was the most popular semi-automatic rifle sold in America, and that is just one model. In fact, of the top sellers, only one was not an AR platform rifle. This data is aggregated from gunbroker.com.
Conservation relies heavily on the AR platform and recreational shooters to fill Michigan’s wildlife management coffers. In 2021, Michigan received about $20 million in PR funds, accounting for about 25% of wildlife management dollars available in the state.
It’s no coincidence that MUCC was founded the same year the PR act was passed. While who funds the majority of PR dollars has shifted dramatically — from almost exclusively hunters 85 years ago to primarily recreational shooters now — the end goal is the same: better conservation, wildlife, public access and outdoor heritage for generations through dollars levied on the sale of firearms, archery equipment and ammunition.
Most of Michigan’s State Game Areas, which comprise almost all of the public lands open to hunting in Southern Michigan, were purchased using PR funds.
The modern sporting rifle in the field
The AR is a semiautomatic, versatile hunting tool. ARs are commonly used in predator or feral swine control and are rapidly growing in popularity as an effective tool for whitetail hunting. Remington was among the first to market something in the AR platform to big-game hunters (the little brother R-15 was sold in smaller calibers to predator hunters a year or so prior) when they released the Remington R-25 in 2008. That rifle was chambered in .243 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington and .308 Winchester.
AR-15s modularity and new low-recoil cartridges like the .350 legend make it an optimal tool for deer hunters of all shapes and sizes. MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter’s 9-year-old daughter harvested her first buck this past year with an AR-platform .350 legend. People looking for larger calibers have found the AR-10 platform handy for big game, too.
While an AR can accept a standard capacity 30-round magazine, it is illegal to hunt with a magazine larger than five rounds in Michigan. It also remains a federal crime to modify any weapon to fire automatically.
Semi-automatic (one pull of the trigger fires one bullet) hunting rifles with detachable magazines are not new. In 1955, Remington began production on the Remington 740, replaced in 1960 with the Remington 742, aka Woodsmaster, which came in a handful of cartridges and had four-, 10- or 20-round detachable magazines.
MUCC and the Second Amendment
Why is all of this important? As the gun control debates rage across the country, it is valuable to know where MUCC and, more importantly, its membership stands on the issue. The resolution at the beginning of this piece states MUCC has a duty to educate on the value of the Second Amendment to conservation. Still, we should also take this chance to broaden our understanding of all of the organization’s firearms policies.
MUCC has several broad policy resolutions as it relates to gun control, firearms and the Second Amendment (the most recent from 2013):
Constitutional Firearms Rights: Educate state and federal legislators, public officials and the general public about the constitutional rights of Michigan citizens in regards’ to all firearms, accessories and ammunition; and take any necessary action to prevent any encroachment of these rights at the state or federal level, by any new legislation, executive orders or other methods not enumerated above.
“We cannot but pity the boy who has never fired a gun; he is no more humane, while his education has been sadly neglected.” – Henry David Thoreau
Similarly, past resolutions dating back to the ’60s are supportive of firearm usage in all manners and oppose new firearm regulations:
AC250600: MUCC join the NRA in supporting and promoting the enforcement of existing firearm laws rather than creating additional laws.
AC640675: Oppose any anti-gun legislation.
AC650675: Support right to keep and bear arms.
AC050672: MUCC believes states should have sole power to regulate firearms.
AC080669: Oppose any legislation that would require the registration or licensing of shotguns or rifles.
Lastly, MUCC membership passed in 2017 a resolution supporting removing suppressors from National Firearms Act regulation.
AC150617-Suppressor tax elimination: Support removing regulations for suppressors from the National Firearms Act of 1934 and work with the legislature to allow the purchase of a suppressor to follow the same guidelines currently in place to purchase firearms through the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) program.
In 2016 it became legal to use a suppressor while hunting in Michigan. Suppressors do not hide the sound of the gunshot; rather, they lower the volume of a gunshot to fall below the threshold causing permanent hearing damage (under 140db).
In reality, a suppressor is an expensive piece of hearing protection to acquire. A good suppressor on a .22lr will only lower the shot to around 120 decibels, about the same decibel reading as running a chainsaw.
A Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) white paper was released in 2017 citing the low criminality of suppressors. On average, there have been 44 defendants annually throughout the past 10 years across the United States.
MUCC is a grassroots organization — our members dictate our policy positions so that staff can work to achieve the goals of our members. To date, MUCC’s membership has been clear regarding firearms policy.
Any member of MUCC can draft a policy resolution and introduce it to one of our quarterly Conservation Policy Board meetings. To find more information on how to do that, check our path to policy document here or email Policy Assistant Justin Tomei at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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