In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied a petition filed by a number of groups (led by the radical anti-gun, anti-hunting environmental group Center for Biological Diversity) to ban the use of lead ammunition. The 2010 denial was based on the simple fact that the EPA does not have the legal authority under the Toxic Substance Control Act to ban or regulate ammunition.
As we reported in 2010, this is not an accident. When TSCA was passed in 1976, pro-gun legislators led by the late Sen. James McClure (R-Idaho) added language to the bill specifically exempting ammunition from EPA control. They knew, even then, that radical anti-hunting groups could try to use the law to end hunting and recreational shooting by making ammo too expensive. Their foresight has now provided an invaluable protection against the effort to ban traditional lead ammunition.
But you can never count on radicals to stop just because they have been beaten. The EPA has also previously denied their petition to ban the use of lead fishing sinkers, and when they sued to force the EPA to impose an ammunition ban, a federal court ruled that the suit had been filed too late.
Last year, CBD filed a new petition that was just slightly different than the original, only changing the language to specifically target ammunition used in hunting or recreational shooting so that it would not apply to law enforcement or the military.
This week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed that lawsuit The suit sought to force the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the manufacture, processing, and distribution of lead-based ammunition and was brought in an attempt to overturn the EPA’s previous denials.
The NRA, Safari Club International, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation each intervened in the case to defend the rights and interests of hunters, competitive shooters, and others with firearms-related interests.
Federal Judge Emmet G. Sullivan dismissed CBD’s lawsuit, finding that CBD’s current petition was nothing more than an attempt to seek reconsideration of their previous petition, which the EPA had denied. Judge Sullivan also indicated that he would defer to EPA’s determination that the agency was not congressionally authorized to regulate lead-based ammunition.
By ruling on procedural grounds, Judge Sullivan was not required to address CBD’s flawed legal argument in his ruling. CBD claimed that the Toxic Substances Control Act provides EPA with the authority to ban lead-based ammunition, notwithstanding that the law has an exclusion that puts “shells and cartridges” outside its regulatory scope. CBD contended, strangely, that bullets and shot are not within the exception for “shells and cartridges,” notwithstanding the very obvious fact that shells and cartridges are where bullets and shot are found.
The CBD is unlikely to ever give up in its effort to ban lead ammunition, which means NRA and gun owners will have to remain vigilant to protect our rights in the future.