Get the lead out

The National Shooting Sports Foundation has a video nominated for the 2016 People’s Telly Award.  The Telly Awards, in case you haven’t heard of them, and I hadn’t, “honor excellence in local, regional and cable TV commercials.”  Every industry has its awards, it seems.  The NSSF’s video addresses California’s ban on lead in hunting ammunition.

The NSSF—and not the NRA, despite the claims of gun control advocates—is the trade association of the firearms industry.  Typical for commercials, the organization’s video makes statements that are true on the face of it, but require an asterisk.

California has indeed banned lead from hunting ammunition, though the law has a provision to undo the ban if federal law bans non-lead rounds under restrictions against armor-piercing bullets.  This builds on bans nationwide on lead used in shotgun shells for hunting waterfowl.

The video points out that preservation of raptors is the stated purpose of the law and quickly moves to saying that bald eagle populations have rebounded from previous years.  The problem here is that the pesticide, DDT, was the major threat to those birds, though lead shot remains a risk.  But eagles aren’t the only raptors.  The bird species in greatest danger is the California condor, of which there are only 300 currently living.  And since condors are scavengers, they eat gut piles from hunters.

With regard to cost, yes, non-lead ammunition does tend to cost more, though the price difference isn’t always that much, and there are many different calibers from many manufacturers for sale.

The video is the most accurate on the point about hunters providing funds for wildlife conservation.  According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “the sale of hunting licenses, tags, and stamps is the primary source of funding for most state wildlife conservation efforts.”  In a given year, “nearly $200 million in hunters’ federal excise taxes are distributed to State agencies to support wildlife management programs, the purchase of lands open to hunters, and hunter education and safety classes.”

The benefit of hunters is not limited to funding.  Consider the population of white-tailed deer in this country.  Unregulated hunting drove the number down to around half a million in the beginning of the twentieth century to a current figure that approaches thirty million.  In part, this is the result of humans having killed off most of their predators, and that fact leaves us as the primary limiting factor to prevent cycles of boom and bust in the population.  Another example is feral hogs, animals that humans introduced to this continent and are damaging not only to farmland but also to wilderness areas.  In both these cases, hunters are a necessary part of the solution.

The point in all of this is that the easy dichotomy of hunters vs. environmentalists or gun rights supporters vs. gun control advocates can obscure the facts.  Making these facts clear to everyone at least has the benefit of leaving both sides responsible for improving their arguments.  A federal court ruling has barred the Environmental Protection Agency from banning lead ammunition, and given the advantages of that element, it’s likely that lead will be with us for a while to come.  As with so-called smart guns, the better approach in ammunition types is to promote choice, while recognizing the various interests of hunters, competition shooters, people exercising their right to protect themselves, and the environment that belongs to everyone.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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