Q: Has anyone actually called for a ban on lead ammunition, based on human health or other concerns?
A: Yes. Unfounded fears over lead bullet fragmentation, or ingestion by certain birds, have caused some to call for a ban on the use of lead ammunition. For example:
In 2007, California totally banned the use of lead ammunition for big game hunting throughout condor habitat in the state, and that prohibition took effect on July 1, 2008. In February 2009, the state Fish and Game Commission began considering a statewide ban on the use of lead ammunition. The commission also considered a ban on lead ammunition for small game and upland bird hunting in the state's condor zone but opted against that proposal by a 4-1 vote on Aug. 6, 2009.
California has pushed for these additional lead bans even though data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) shows that the state's existing lead ban has not reduced blood-lead levels in condors. Despite reports of nearly 100 percent compliance from hunters in the first year of the lead ban, a California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) report utilizing the USFWS data showed that improvement in condor blood-lead levels was almost negligible between the first six months of 2008 (pre-lead ban) and the second half of 2008 (post-ban). During the January through June 2008 time frame, 59 percent of the condors tested had blood-lead levels above what is considered a normal or acceptable background level. In the second half of the year from July through December, 45 percent of condors had blood-lead levels above normal. (Source: "Lead Ban Not Really Helping Condors," Jim Matthews, San Bernardino Sun, July 30, 2009)
In Washington State, SB 5095 would authorize the Fish and Game Commission to ban the use of lead for hunting anywhere in the state the Commission deems necessary. (Read an NRA-ILA alert on this issue by clicking here. The Washington State Dept. of Ecology has also issued a Lead Chemical Action Plan that paves the way to a lead ammunition ban. (NRA has submitted comments on that plan calling for the entire section on lead ammunition to be deleted.)
The Humane Society of the United States has called for a complete ban on all lead ammunition.
Minnesota State Representative Sandy Masin has announced her intent to introduce a ban or significant restrictions on lead ammunition.
In a Draft Position Statement, The Wildlife Society advocates the replacement of lead-based ammunition and fishing tackle use and production with non-lead products.
North Dakota’s Sportsmen Against Hunger Program began accepting only deer killed with arrows in 2008, but in July 2009 the program announced that it would resume accepting deer taken by hunters with traditional lead ammunition for the 2009-2010 hunting season. (Source: Grand Forks Herald, July 30, 2009)
In the spring of 2008 the Peregrine Fund hosted a symposium entitled, "Ingestion of Spent Lead Ammunition: Implications for Wildlife and Humans." Most of the speakers present advocated a ban on lead ammunition.
In January 2009, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit, alleging that the Bureau of Land Management and the US Fish and Wildlife Service had violated the Endangered Species Act by allowing hunters to use lead ammunition in areas of Arizona where condors feed. In January 2010, NRA won the right to intervene in the lawsuit.
In March 2009, the National Park Service (NPS) announced its intention to ban lead on properties it manages: "Our goal is to eliminate the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle in parks by 2010," said Acting Park Service Director Dan Wenk. (NPS made this decision without seeking public comment.) After heavy criticism from NRA and other hunting groups, the Park Service later said the ban would only apply to its employees and authorized agents, while leaving open the possibility of banning lead ammunition and fishing tackle by the general public on a park-by-park basis.
On Aug. 6, 2009, officials of Grand Teton National Park and National Elk Refuge issued an announcement asking hunters to voluntarily switch to non-lead ammunition for the 2009 elk and bison seasons.
In August 2009, the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife announced that it is requiring hunters to use non-lead shot when dove hunting on state wildlife areas for the 2009-2010 mourning dove season during the month of September, although the ban does not apply to dove hunters on private land.
On Oct. 14, 2009, as part of NRA’s continuing efforts to protect hunters from special interest groups seeking to eliminate the use of ammunition containing lead projectiles, attorneys for NRA filed paperwork in the United States District Court in Arizona, asking the Court to allow NRA to intervene and join in the lawsuit Center for Biological Diversity v. United States Bureau of Land Management et al (3:09-cv-08011-PCT-PGR).
The lawsuit, filed January 27, 2009 by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), alleges that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (BLM, FWS) are illegally mismanaging federal lands in Arizona because those agencies failed to consider the potential impact on local wildlife resulting from authorizing activities like off-road vehicle use and allowing livestock grazing. CBD’s lawsuit also claims that California condors in Arizona are becoming ill or dying as a result of eating lead in scavenged game shot by hunters using lead shot or bullets, and that BLM and FWS are violating the Endangered Species Act by allowing hunters to use of lead shot and bullets while hunting.
In January 2010 the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks tentatively proposed banning lead shot for upland bird hunting on the state's 72 wildlife management areas. The department offered no justification for the ban, and indeed, FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim told the Billings Gazette, "There are no biological reasons to ban lead shot on the areas, but people simply may not like it." The ban was voted down in February, by a margin of just one vote.
Utah’s 2010 Big Game regulations (page 35) call for a voluntary, lead-free ammunition program. Citing alleged concerns about condors consuming lead fragments from gut piles left by hunters, the Utah Division of Wildlife and Utah Wildlife in Need joined together to offer coupons for one free box of lead-free ammunition for deer and elk hunters in certain parts of southwestern Utah.
In August 2010 the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) announced a campaign to ban the use of lead in ammunition and fishing tackle. CBD and other groups filed a petition with EPA calling for such a ban under the Toxic Substances Control Act--and did not limit it to "hunting ammunition." The petition asks to "ban the manufacture, processing, and distribution in commerce of lead shot, bullets, and fishing sinkers." Responding in an NRA-ILA press release, ILA Executive Director Chris Cox said, "These extremist groups are trying to ban bullets under a Federal law that specifically doesn't apply to ammunition." Read the full press release on the issue here. NRA also sent a letter to EPA, urging rejection of the ban.
Later that same month, EPA issued a statement asserting it did not have legal authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act to regulate lead ammunition. Read ILA's reaction here. The proposal to ban lead in fishing sinkers was still under consideration and EPA was still accepting public comments on the issue as of Sept. 6, 2010.
On Sept. 27, 2010, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) sent out a press release announcing that 61 organizations had sent a letter to EPA supporting a nationwide ban on lead in ammunition and fishing tackle. The letter (which includes many of the erroneous statements made by CBD in its original petition) and its signatures may be read here. The letter was sent despite the fact that EPA had already stated it does not have the authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act to regulate lead in ammunition.
On April 14th, 2011, U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) and U.S. Representatives Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), Mike Ross (D-Ark.), Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), introduced legislation to protect traditional lead ammunition and fishing tackle from a potential ban by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
S. 838 and H.R. 1558 would protect the rights of sportsmen to use traditional ammunition by clarifying that the components used in manufacturing shells, cartridges, and fishing tackle are exempt from EPA regulation under the Toxic Substance Control Act.
Radical environmental groups have attempted to persuade the EPA to ban the use of traditional lead ammunition. Last year, the Centers for Biological Diversity led a coalition to petition the EPA to institute a ban. The EPA denied the petition in November of last year, but these groups have now turned to the courts to force the EPA to act. Read more: http://www.nraila.org/Legislation/Federal/Read.aspx?id=6672&issue=
In July 2011, Iowa, about to hold its first dove hunt in nearly a century, suddenly BANNED lead shot for dove hunting. Read the NRA-ILA alert here: http://www.nraila.org/Hunting/Read/HuntingIssues.aspx?ID=6994&type=L . Legistlators later voted to reject this ban, allowing for a "session delay." Hunters were allowed to use lead ammunition for the dove season. Read the NRA-ILA alert here.
In September 2011, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) imposed a ban on the use of traditional (lead) ammunition for all upland bird hunting on all WDFW pheasant release sites across the state. This restriction had been adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission two years before, but its implementation was delayed until the 2011 hunting season. (See NRA - ILA alert here.) Acting on behalf of hunters, attorneys for NRA submitted a letter to the WDFW, pointing out the lack of scientific evidence supporting the ban and requesting that it be repealed. Read the full announcement here.