Judge Throws Out One Suit to Ban Traditional Ammunition, While Another Continues

Posted on June 24, 2013

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On May 23, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia threw out a case brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, which sought to force the Environmental Protection Agency into overstepping its congressionally designated authority by banning lead ammunition.

The suit began in 2012, following the EPA’s rejection of a CBD petition urging the EPA to regulate traditional ammunition. Throughout the dispute, the radical anti-hunting group relied on an incorrect reading of the Toxic Substances Control Act, arguing that the EPA has the authority to regulate lead bullets as components of ammunition. In fact, in 1976 pro-gun lawmakers foresaw exactly this type of problem and added language to the legislation specifically exempting ammunition from its terms. Despite these repeated rebuffs and the plain language of the TSCA, CBD has continued its campaign against hunters and shooters.

Undeterred by their failure with the EPA, CBD is now trying to get the United States Forest Service to ban lead for hunting under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, known as RCRA.

On Sept. 9, in federal district court in Arizona, the CBD, joined by the Sierra Club and the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, sued the Forest Service for failure to enforce RCRA. The complaint contends that lead from traditional hunting ammunition poses an “imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment” on Forest Service lands. The specific tract of Forest Service land the complaint mentions is Arizona’s 1.6 million acre Kaibab National Forest. CBD claims this is within the habitat of the California condor, even though the birds were only released there as a “nonessential experimental” population, and classified as such specifically to prevent restrictions on hunting, fishing and other land uses.

Just as importantly, RCRA refers “to the past or present disposal of solid or hazardous waste, which may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment[.]” According to the EPA, the act gives the agency authority over “the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste.” The act was clearly aimed at controlling the disposal of industrial waste, not the miniscule amount of lead a sportsman might incidentally leave in the ground during a hunt—and especially not such a miniscule amount in comparison to the huge areas of land in question.

The NRA is intervening in the case to protect the interests of hunters; be sure to watch future issues of Legal Update for new developments.

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