In response to an August 2010 petition to the Environmental Protection Agency asking the agency to ban traditional lead ammunition and fishing equipment, U.S. Representatives Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), Mike Ross (D-Ark.), Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) have introduced H.R. 1558, the “Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act.” Companion legislation, S.838, has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and John Thune (R-S.D.).
The petitioners, led by the anti-hunting Center for Biological Diversity, presented dubious information as to the harm supposedly caused by lead ammunition. They then claimed that although the EPA is barred from regulating “shells and cartridges” under the Toxic Substances Control Act, ammunition components such as primers, shot and bullets could nonetheless be regulated. (The CBD also sought a similar ban on the use of lead in fishing tackle, which was not exempted from the Act.)
In response to an outcry from the sporting community (including letters from the NRA and other major groups representing gun owners and the firearms industry), the EPA rightly denied the petition, stating, “EPA reached this decision because the agency does not have the legal authority to regulate this type of product under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)—nor is the agency seeking such authority.”
To prevent this or any future administration from using the EPA to administratively destroy the right of hunters, shooters and anglers to use traditional ammunition and fishing tackle, H.R. 1558 would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act to clarify that the EPA does not have the authority to regulate “shot, bullets and other projectiles, propellants, and primers… and sport fishing equipment components.”
- Hunting with traditional ammunition poses no threat to human health
A 2008 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study on the prevalence of lead in the bloodstreams of 738 residents of North Dakota found levels of lead lower than those in the general population, with 86 percent of those tested reporting that they consumed some wild game meat. According to the CDC, there has never been a case of lead poisoning traced to wild game meat. As for exposure through means other than hunting, the EPA itself has previously recommended management and hygiene practices that “have been proven to effectively reduce lead contamination” at shooting ranges and has never called for restrictions on the use of lead ammunition.
- There is no scientific evidence that traditional lead ammunition threatens wildlife populations
No scientific evidence conclusively proves that use of traditional ammunition has had a detrimental effect on a wildlife population. In particular, lead ban advocates claim that lead threatens birds of prey, even though populations of some species, such as the bald eagle, are at an all-time high.
- H.R. 1558 clarifies the original intent of the Congress
The Toxic Substances Control Act already excludes “shells … and cartridges.” Perverting congressional intent, those seeking to ban traditional ammunition have argued that this exemption does not apply to individual components of shells and cartridges, such as lead shot or bullets. In its letter to the EPA, the NRA explained the absurdity of this concept, noting that “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.”
- A ban would be disastrous for shooters and hunters
Alternatives to lead bullets and shot are significantly more expensive and less readily available to average gun owners. Currently, the National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates that 95 percent of ammunition sold in the U.S. uses lead bullets or shot. Non-lead ammunition may never become readily available in less popular calibers of ammunition.
- A ban would have adverse economic impact
With record firearm sales, the hunting and shooting industry has been a bright spot in an otherwise stagnant economy. Burdening ammunition manufacturers and consumers with new regulations would encumber this engine of economic growth.
- A ban would be a disaster for conservation
Hunters and shooters are the largest supporters of federal conservation efforts through excise taxes levied on ammunition and firearms. In describing the importance of these funds, President Ronald Reagan remarked, “Those who pay the freight are those who purchase firearms, ammunition, and, in recent years, archery equipment.”
Since 1937 the Pittman-Robertson excise tax has raised over $2 billion for federal conservation programs. An increase in the cost of ammunition would reduce ammunition sales, affecting funding for vital conservation programs. In a very real sense, the supposedly bird-loving groups asking for the lead ban are trying to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.