Responding to a grassroots outcry from gun owners, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Aug. 27 that it had denied a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and other radical groups that had sought a nationwide ban on the use of lead in ammunition. In a fundraising e-mail it sent out before filing the petition, CBD promised "a once-in-a-lifetime campaign … to ban all lead bullets everywhere in the United States." (We can only hope they were right about it being once in a lifetime.)
The petition, filed in early August, falsely claimed that lead ammunition poses otherwise unavoidable hazards to humans and wildlife, and should therefore be banned under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In particular, the petition claimed that lead projectiles endanger birds of prey—even though populations of some species, such as the bald eagle, are at an all-time high.
Unfortunately for the petitioners` hopes, far-sighted lawmakers anticipated this move more than 30 years ago. Just months before the creation of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) in 1975, pro-gun Sen. James A. McClure, r-Idaho, won language in the TSCA that blocks EPA from regulating items taxed under the Pittman-Robertson Act that funds wildlife restoration.
McClure`s provision exempted not only firearms, but "shells … and cart-ridges." When NRA-ILA was formed, it helped shepherd that language into law.
CBD and its allies claimed that because only loaded "cartridges" and "shells" are taxed, EPA would still have the authority to ban bullets and shot. But as NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox pointed out in an ?Aug. 20 letter to EPA, "If Congress exempts a cow from regulation, one could hardly argue that it nevertheless would allow for regulation of the hide attached to the cow`s body."
Fortunately, EPA agreed with the position of NRA and the firearm industry. The agency explained in a news release that it "does not have the legal authority to regulate this type of product under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)." Further crushing the hopes of anti-gun and anti-hunting activists, the release added: "... nor is the agency seeking such authority." Because EPA has no power to regulate ammunition, it announced it would not move ahead with a public comment period on the petition.
The greatest irony in the situation is that if the petition had been successful, the effect on wildlife would have been devastating. A mandate for lead-free ammunition would have priced recreational shooting out of many Americans` reach, reducing overall ammunition sales and, in turn, slashing the amount of Pittman-Robertson excise tax dollars that would be available for wildlife projects. In a very real sense, these supposedly bird-loving petitioners were trying to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
While hunters` and shooters` fight on this issue may be over for now, the anglers among us should still worry. EPA announced that it would still move ahead with taking comments on another part of the petition, which calls for a ban on the use of lead in fishing tackle. At press time, that comment period was slated to end Sept. 15.
Summing up the situation, Cox commented, "It`s outrageous that this petition even went this far. We applaud EPA for its understanding of the law and its common sense in this situation—both of which were totally missing in the petition filed by these extreme anti-gun and anti-hunting groups."