A set of laws adopted in 2013 known as “AB 711” drastically expanded California’s restrictions on lead ammunition for hunters. For years it has been illegal to use centerfire rifle or pistol ammunition that has not been certified as lead-free, or to possess such ammunition along with a firearm capable of firing it, when taking certain animals within the “California condor zone.” AB 711 furthers those restrictions to include all ammunition when taking any wildlife throughout the entire state. It does not do so immediately, however. It requires that the California Fish and Game Commission adopt regulations that implement the expanded lead ammunition ban by July 1, 2019, or sooner if “practical.”
Despite the NRA and the California Rifle and Pistol Association submitting a joint letter to the Commission urging that implementation of any regulations adopted be postponed until the July 1, 2019 legislative deadline — due to the current commercial unavailability of alternative ammunition, among other reasons—the Commission nevertheless voted unanimously to adopt regulations, some of which take effect immediately. Hunters in California now need to be aware of when the phased implementation of the regulations will affect them.
Beginning July 1, 2015, Phase 1 of AB 711 requires the use of ammunition that has been certified as non-lead by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife when taking: (1) Nelson bighorn sheep anywhere within the state; and (2) all wildlife within a wildlife area or an ecological reserve. It also prohibits the possession of any ammunition that is not certified as non-lead if possessed with a firearm capable of firing it. These new restrictions equally apply inside the “California condor range,” meaning that even if the species you are pursuing was not previously subject to the lead ammunition restrictions (e.g., rabbits), it is now for hunting in a wildlife area or ecological reserve located within the range because Phase 1 applies to all hunting in those locations. The Department has issued its own public announcement about the July 1 change in law.
Targeted Species Affected Most Immediately: Coyote, Pig, Cottontail Rabbits, & Deer
Coyotes No season
Wild Pig No season
Cottontail Rabbits July 1
Deer (limited zones) Season opens in limited zones July 24
On a positive note, AB 711 provides that the possession of concealable firearms (handguns) containing lead ammunition is lawful, so long as the firearm is possessed for the sole purpose of “personal protection” and is not used to take wildlife.
However, it is important to note that this “personal protection” exception does not fully apply within the “California condor range,” (shown in map below) until July 1, 2019. Prior to that date, there is no self-defense exception within the “California condor range” when pursuing big game (defined as deer, antelope, pigs/boar, bear and Nelson bighorn sheep), coyote, nongame birds, or nongame mammals, even if within a wildlife area or ecological reserve.
The California Department of Fish & Wildlife has created an information page that explains, among other things, where the affected areas are located. Be sure to check with the CDFW or your local law enforcement to determine what requirements or limitations are in place in your area and apply to the taking of a specific species. It may also be prudent to invest in a GPS or navigation device as many of these boundaries are not physically marked.
If you have questions about how to comply with AB 711, please contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:
1416 9th Street, 12th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Tel: (916) 445-0411
CDFW Wildlife Branch
271 E. Imperial Highway; Suite 620
The NRA and CRPA have been at the forefront of the fight to protect traditional ammunition in California for years and achieved important successes prior to the passage of AB 711. Despite this setback, the NRA and CRPA are not giving up on protecting their members who hunt in California from the lead ammunition ban. They will continue to monitor its implementation and enforcement to make sure hunters are treated fairly and according to the law. Additionally, NRA and CRPA will be publishing a free guide explaining how to comply with California’s lead ammo restrictions in the coming days.
If you need to speak to someone regarding AB 711 affecting you personally (e.g., cited or arrested), please contact California Rifle & Pistol Association (but contact DFW for general questions):
Fullerton, CA 92835
Tel: (800) 305-2772
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