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Hunters should have their choice of ammunition

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BY LAWRENCE G. KEANE
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, representing the firearms and ammunition industry, supports the right of hunters to choose ammunition products that best meet their personal requirements and budgets. For some, that will be traditional ammunition containing lead components; for others it will be ammunition with projectiles made of copper or other metals that substitute for lead.
Hunters have used ammunition containing lead for more than a century without adverse impact on wildlife populations, the environment or human health caused by eating game taken with such ammunition. Given that the push to ban traditional ammunition plays on emotion and misinformation, the foundation urges those who report on the issue to fully evaluate claims made by ban proponents and to consider their underlying motivations.
Some hunters might not realize that supporting a ban on traditional ammunition amounts to casting their lot with anti-hunting groups, most notably the Human Society of the United States. The Humane Society, which recently filed a petition with the Department of the Interior to eliminate hunting with traditional ammunition on public lands, is on record as committed to ending hunting.
In its recently exposed “playbook,” the Humane Society reveals its dominoes strategy of using California’s decision to ban traditional ammunition as a model to achieve restrictions in other states.
We must keep in mind that wildlife management policy is based on managing population impacts, not on preventing isolated instances of harm to individual animals in a species. Feral cats, power lines, wind farms and window strikes all rank far higher than traditional ammunition as causes of bird mortality. No evidence links the use of traditional ammunition with wildlife population-level declines. Rather, populations of bald eagles and other raptors have increased dramatically in recent decades—concurrent with hunters’ use of traditional lead ammunition.
California’s ban lacks the science to support it. For five years, the state banned the use of traditional ammunition in condor areas, yet even with 99 percent of hunters complying with the regulations, condor blood-lead levels didn’t fall. What’s not been acknowledged is that lead exposure can come from other sources such as landfills and industrial sites.
The scare-tactic claim that consuming game taken with traditional ammunition is a health risk is refuted by a 2008 study of North Dakota hunters. Conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the study shows that those who eat game taken with traditional ammunition do not have higher blood lead levels than the average American. Additionally, the Iowa Department of Public Health, a state agency that has tested the blood lead level of Iowa residents for over 15 years, reports, “IDPH maintains that if lead in venison were a serious health risk, it would likely have surfaced within extensive blood lead testing since 1992 with 500,000 youth under 6 and 25,000 adults having been screened.” Iowa has never had a case of a hunter having elevated lead levels caused by consuming harvested game.
The manipulative “We’ve banned lead in paint and gasoline, why not in ammunition?” is supposed to sound like common sense until you consider that lead compounds once used in those products were soluble and easily absorbed in the blood stream, while the metallic lead used in ammunition is different and relatively insoluble in digestive tracts.
Who would doubt that hunters forced to pay more for ammunition will buy less? Alternative ammunition can cost up to 190 percent more than equivalent traditional ammunition. A decline in sales will mean a reduction in conservation funding from the 11 percent excise tax collected on traditional ammunition. And alternatives in many hunting calibers can be difficult to find.
True intentions are exposed when groups try to force bans but ignore voluntary, educational, non-ban measures such as ammunition coupon programs and asking hunters to bury the entrails of field-dressed animals to reduce exposure. Such measures work, gain the cooperation of hunters and are not divisive.
For years, the Arizona Game and Fish Department and other groups have asked hunters to voluntarily switch to using alternative ammunition in northern Arizona, a condor reintroduction area. Not surprisingly given their traditional support of conservation, hunters showed an 80 to 90 percent participation rate. Utah plans a similar approach.
No ban is necessary.♦
Editor’s note: The use of lead ammunition continues to be a contentious national issue. This article was written in response to one in the August/September 2014 issue of OU advocating a ban on lead ammunition. Hunters should have their choice of ammunition
–Lawrence Keane is senior vice president and general counsel for NSSF.
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