In a rare show of bipartisanship between Republicans, blue dogs, and embattled Democrats facing tight elections, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a bizarre plan to use federal funds to encourage shooting on public land and exempt lead bullets from pollution guidelines.
New constraints on gun use in the wake of mass shootings are a political nonstarter, but 82 senators tripped over themselves to sign onto the "Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2014," which—in the words of the befuddled British Guardian newspaper—aims
"to protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting" by stipulating that shooting ranges on public land can be used for target practice and exempting shotgun pellets and bullets from environmental rules designed to limit lead use.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a pro-gun group based in Newtown, Connecticut, spoke for its co-religionists in the NRA and other gun-industry lobbyists in hailing the act as "simply the most important package of measures for the benefit of sportsmen in a generation."
And those sportsmen will get government benefits galore! The bill text says that big government intervention in the form of "increased Federal support" is needed "to promote enjoyment of shooting, recreational, and hunting activities." How much support? Well, the bill authorizes states to acquire new land and build gun ranges on it—or to simply build them on federal land in their territory, such as national park land—and bill most of the expense to Uncle Sam: up to "90 percent of the cost of the activity" can be borne by the feds, according to the bill.
The bill also tasks federal officials with carting away any mess caused by the states' gun-range construction on federal lands. That includes disposing of expended lead "shot, bullets and other projectiles, propellants, and primers," which are now exempt from pollution and toxic-substance controls, thanks to a provision in the bill that weirdly is titled "MODIFICATION OF DEFINITION OF SPORT FISHING EQUIPMENT," not "PROVISION TO LET GUN OWNERS DRIBBLE LEAD AMMUNITION COMPONENTS WITH IMPUNITY ACROSS THE FRUITED PLAIN."
How much will all this welfare for armed citizens cost the taxpayer? It's not clear. But it must be a lot less than an extension of unemployment benefits, food stamps, Pell grants, public broadcasting and arts subsidies, or minimum wage raises, because hey, we can't afford all that. As Paul Ryan says, "Washington owes the American people a responsible, balanced budget." And more places to shoot guns!