Gun owners knew that Barack Obama would not leave quietly. The only question was what else was coming.
An answer came late in the day on January 19. With his successor’s inauguration only hours away, he completed his final assault on gun owners' and sportsmen's rights, this time in the form of Director’s Order No. 219 of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The order seeks to expand “the use of nontoxic ammunition and fishing tackle on Service lands, waters and facilities and for certain types of hunting and fishing regulated by the Service” outside of those areas.
The order states that FWS policy will be to “[r]equire the use of nontoxic ammunition and fishing tackle to the fullest extent practicable for all activities on Service lands, waters, and facilities by January 2022, except as needed for law enforcement or health and safety uses.” It also calls for collaboration with state and fish wildlife agencies in implementing this policy.
The order goes on to outline a series of steps the FWS will take to implement the policy, first and foremost of which is the favored gun control tactic of using “science” to re-enforce pre-existing policy goals, rather than to guide those goals in the first place. Rather humorously, the order states, “The Service will continue to support targeted research to understand the human, fish, and wildlife health benefits of using nontoxic ammunition and fishing tackle.”
And if science were to discover lead wasn’t so bad or non-lead ammunition and fishing tackle could actually lead to adverse health effects of their own? Well, that wouldn’t be “targeted.”
The order also requires that “over the next 24 months, each Regional Director, in coordination with relevant Assistant Directors, should work with individual states, regional state fish and wildlife associations, and tribes to identify opportunities to expand existing state, Federal, or tribal requirements for use of nontoxic ammunition and fishing tackle on Service lands, waters and facilities.”
It goes on to state that FWS Regions should enact and enforce on their own lands, wasters, and facilities requirements for non-lead ammunition and fishing tackle that have already been enacted by states, tribes, and other federal agencies.
The FWS additionally plans to use “available information” on the negative impacts of lead ammunition or fishing tackle on “sensitive, vulnerable or Service trust resources” to justify “steps to expeditiously require” non-lead alternatives “to the fullest extent practical [sic]… to benefit such species or resources.”
And, finally, “[t]he Assistant Director, Migratory Birds, in consultation with National Flyway Councils and individual states, will establish a process to phase in a requirement for the use of nontoxic ammunition for recreational hunting of mourning doves and other upland game birds.”
The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, which represents the state agencies that manage these resources, had harsh words for the FWS order. Association president Nick Wiley stated, “this action flies squarely in the face of a long and constructive tradition of states working in partnership with the Service to effectively manage fish and wildlife resources.” He also characterized the order as “a breach of trust and deeply disappointing given that it was a complete surprise and there was no current dialogue or input from state fish and wildlife agencies prior to issuance.”
To be sure, this latest development further demonstrates the petty, partisan tendencies of the former president and is as aggravating as it was predictable.
But it should do little to dampen the high spirits of sportsmen and sportswomen as Donald J. Trump takes the oath of office, for it sharpens the contrast between the outgoing and incoming administrations. Like so much of what Barack Obama claimed as “accomplishments,” it will hopefully amount to little more than a symbolic act of defiance by a president with little of substance to show for his eight years in office.
In the meantime, it is yet another reminder that a long, trying epoch for America’s gun owners is finally at an end, and a new day with a new outlook is at hand.