Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lead Ammunition Ban - Fear or Reality?

So many proponents of the gun rights seem to deal in emotion and fear mongering, not in facts. As a pro-gun rights person, this disturbs me promoting a position easily dismissed as FUD does us no favors.

Here is the example that inspires this post: the California Rifle and Pistol Association, of which I am a member, has posted this alert on their web site. On the face of it, one would assume that a statewide lead ammunition ban is imminent. But the facts of the situation indicate otherwise.

Here are the FACTS as I have been able to determine them.

California Condors are an endangered species that live in a range of territory in California, and other states. Condors in California have died, and tests indicate that lead poisoning as the cause in some deaths. Environmentalists have pointed to lead ammunition left in carrion remaining after a animal is dressed out by hunters and subsequently consumed by the condors as the source of the lead poisoning. These concerns lead to a ban of lead ammunition within an area specified as California Condor range. Information about this ban can be found here and here.

Note especially the second document above. Lead ammunition is banned only in the condor range, and only if the person is hunting. Here is an important quote"

"What about target shooting, “plinking”, or firearms for personal protection?

The Commission does not regulate these activities. Use of lead projectiles is legal
unless another government entity has determined otherwise for lands they administer.
The regulations prohibiting lead only relate to possession while engaged in specified
hunting activities."

But the CRPA announcement claims:

"From the beginning, proponents of the current ban have wanted to ban lead ammunition statewide. The California condor was simply being used by the anti-hunters and anti-gunners to carry out this agenda. They have already achieved a partial ban. The next step is to take it statewide. If they are successful, they will push to ban the use of lead ammunition for everyone, not just hunters."

This, especially the last sentence, makes it sound as if a statewide ban is imminent. But a consultation of the California Fish and Game Commission website had no mention of a proposed new rule, so I decided to dig deeper, trying to find the source of the CRPA announcement.

It turns out that during the February 5th meeting of the Fish and Game commission a report was delivered to the Fish and Game Commission about the lead toxicity levels of California Condors in light of the lead ammunition ban that went into effect in July of 2008. No statewide lead ammunition ban was discussed by the commission, but it was mentioned during the public comment period following the report. It was during this phase, that a statewide ban was discussed.

But don't take my word for it, see for yourself. High quality video of the entire meeting, and of each agenda item, can be found at the awesome Cal-Span website. The lead toxicity report is item 6 on the agenda, and may be viewed here.

Three of the speakers advocated a state-wide ban:

Pamela Flick - Defenders of Wildlife
Eric Mills - Action for Animals
Dan Taylor - Audubon California

Other speakers, including a CRPA representative, opposed a statewide ban, as do some Commission members. The Commission did not put consideration of a statewide ban on the agenda for future action because it is thought to be too early in the current lead ammunition ban to determine if it is having any effect.

What about availability of lead-free ammunition for hunting within the Condor range? This was also addressed in the meeting, during which it was stated that increasing numbers of manufacturers are responding to the market with non-lead ammunition, so hunters are still active in the Condor range.

It is clear that there is no imminent statewide lead ammunition ban on the horizon, and if there was, the Fish and Game Commission has the power to ban lead ammunition only for hunting, not for any other use. So the CRPA announcement seems to be fear mongering.

A statewide lead ammunition ban could be enacted the same way the lead ammunition ban in the Condor range range was enacted: via the state legislature. Given the ardent support of such a ban by the people who spoke the the Feb. 5th Commission meeting, it would be wise to maintain vigilance on any proposed legislation.

1 comment:

Bill said...

thanks for your research into this issue