Statewide Lead Ammunition Ban A Bad Idea

By David Halbrook, Executive Director of the Hunt For Truth Association

There’s been no shortage of passion on both sides of the debate about whether to ban hunting with lead ammunition throughout the State of California via Assembly Bill (AB) 711. But an open, honest discussion has suffered because some facts have been distorted by misleading media reports.

Opposition to AB 711 is far broader than folks have been lead to believe. The Hunt For Truth Association joins with more than 24 other groups, and a diverse cross-section of conservation groups, hunters and California residents opposing AB 711 for various reasons, including:

1. Blood-lead levels in California Condors have not decreased since a 2008 law banned the use of lead ammunition throughout the “Condor Zone” range. The failed program should not be extended statewide.

2. The type of metallic lead used in lead ammunition is not nearly as soluble or bioavailable as the toxic industrial lead contained in legacy paint and gasoline. It does not present the same hazard to wildlife, and should not be subject to the same restrictions.

3. Several eminent scientists have warned that the isotopic compositional analysis being used to trace the source of lead in the blood in condors is not reliable. A similar method that was used to trace the source of lead bullets found at crime scenes was found to be so unreliable that the FBI stopped using it.

4. Researchers at UC Santa Cruz have repeatedly refused to release underlying data needed to scientifically evaluate the veracity of their research being used to justify AB 711.

5. The California Fish & Game Commission expressed concerns about the methods being used to condemn lead-based ammunition, and created a stakeholders committee to evaluate that science. Rather than participate, proponents of AB 711 by passed the Commission by convincing a legislator to sponsor AB 711.

6. The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) considers many types of non-lead ammunition being touted as a replacement for lead ammunition to be illegal ‘armor piercing” ammunition. Some alternate metal ammunition can also create a fire hazard, and these metals present potential serious toxicity issues of their own.

7. Hunters and sports shooters are major supporters of conservation. The dramatic increase in non-lead ammunition prices will likely mean a decrease in ammunition sales and a decrease in California hunting licenses, resulting in up to $14 million less in corresponding Wildlife Restoration grants.

8. AB 711 could cost the state over 3,000 jobs, cause $320 million in negative economic impact, and result in a decrease in tax revenue of more than $25 million. That’s why labor organizations like the Contra Costa Labor Council oppose AB 711.

9. There are several other sources of lead in the environment that appear to be the real culprit in condor lead poisonings.

10. Scientific studies have proven that there is no human health risk from consuming wild game taken with lead ammunition.

All of these legitimate concerns have been downplayed by most of the media. Of course, it is simpler to vilify lead ammunition, or the NRA, than to admit that determining the cause of condor lead poisoning is a complex endeavor that should be open to public scrutiny.