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Charlie Nichols: Hunters and shooters: Taking a nap or in a deep sleep?

THERE is a daily deluge of news coming out that impacts the men and women who participate in hunting and the varied shooting sports.

Some of the news is good, but the majority should be setting off alarms to West Virginians who partake in all the shooting sports.

I am wondering, are they taking a nap or in a deep sleep, because the silence is eerie.

West Virginian, as a state, has one of the highest participation rates in America for hunting and shooting sports. One in every seven West Virginians shoots a bow and arrow, meaning this state has an archery participation rate of 14.5 percent. Firearms participation is considerably higher.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation did a survey in 2011 that found there were nearly 247,000 hunters in our state.

Those numbers contribute to an economic impact of $421 million with the state tax department collecting $35 million in taxes from the retail sales associated with hunting.

Remarkably, the majority of those tax monies, $21 million, come from deer hunting season.

The excise tax coffers have been filling from the taxes imposed.  Nationwide, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation reports 13.7 million people aged 16 or older - approximately 6 percent of the United States population - went hunting that year and spent a whopping $38.3 billion on equipment, licenses, trips and lodging.

Then there are the shooting sports: trap, skeet, five stand, pistol and rifle shooting and competitions. It all adds up to a booming industry - pun intended! All these shooters put their money up and pay taxes, on top of the normal state sales taxes, to support their sport.   

Firearms sales have been increasing the last five years, not only in West Virginia but in the majority of states.

Ammunition shortages have been rampant for the last three years as citizens, fearful that governments were going to restrict access, began to hoard.

Conspiracy theories abound behind the shortage of ammunition: Homeland Security, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, all buying huge quantities or putting out bids for excessive amounts of ammunition?

The validity is hard to confirm, but the Environmental Protection Agency has so strictly regulated the last lead smelter in the United States that it closed at the end of 2013. Not a peep out of the sportsmen and women even though the closure was announced well before hand.

The Doe Run Lead Smelter was in Herculaneum, Mo., and as of closing was the only smelter in the United States to produce lead bullion, mined in Missouri and sold to lead product producers that manufacture ammunition and components.

The EPA issued a new air quality standard that was 10 times stricter than the previous standard.

In 2010, Doe Run reached an agreement with the EPA and the state of Missouri to end production in 2013.

Three years of silence from hunters and shooters after the press release.

So hunters and shooters, if you thought there was a conspiracy to make ammunition hard to get, you may have been right, but clearly the open assault on the only lead smelter that makes primary lead for ammunition was no conspiracy.

It was done right in front of you and you didn't raise your voice in three years.

As this smelter closed its doors last month, the entire domestic manufacture of conventional ammunition, from raw ore to finished ammunition, is now impossible.

Somebody reset the alarm clock, please.

Nichols is an outdoor enthusiast of upland hunting, working with many sportsmen's organizations to further wildlife habitat enhancement on public lands.


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