Our hunting heritage has no equal. But unlike many other countries, hunting here is not just for the wealthy. In many parts of the world it is restricted to the elite; in America hunting has always been available to anyone.
The same goes for target and recreational shooting. While gun ownership has become increasingly difficult and costly in most of the world, Second Amendment activists here have prevented unnecessary and burdensome regulations while keeping prices accessible.
But the opponents of gun ownership want to change all that. Whether through costly licensing or registration fees, ill-conceived gimmicks such as “smart” guns or microstamping, or reckless lawsuits filed against firearms makers, one of their key goals has been to push up the cost of guns.
Over the past few months, a coalition of radical groups tried to apply that idea to ammunition. The results were disastrous –for them.
In August, the Center for Biological Diversity, along with other radical environmental groups, filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency calling for a complete ban on the use of lead bullets or shot in ammunition in the United States.
Make no mistake; their target was not to win some reasonable or needed protection of the environment, but to price hunters and shooters out of the market.
Unfortunately for the CBD, lawmakers anticipated this move over 30 years ago. In 1975, pro-gun U.S. Senator Jim McClure (R-Idaho) successfully inserted language in the Toxic Substances Control Act that prohibits the EPA from regulating items taxed under the Pittman-Robertson Act that funds wildlife restoration. In plain English, Sen. McClure’s, provision exempted firearms, “shells…and cartridges” from the EPA’s grasp.
On August 27, that exemption (pointed out in letters from the NRA, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and others) forced the EPA to reject the CBD petition. An EPA news release said the EPA “does not have the legal authority to regulate this type of product under the Toxic Substances Control Act.”
It’s a good thing the EPA followed e law in this case, because the repercussions of a ban on lead bullets and shot would have been severe.
Banning the use of traditional lead projectiles would have led to huge increases in the cost of ammunition. Hunters would have been forced to switch to far costlier bullets and shot and if they spent less money overall on ammunition, there would be less tax revenue for habitat restoration programs for wildlife, including the birds the CBD and its allies claimed they were trying to protect.
Competitive and recreational shooters shoot even more and would have faced even greater costs. How many could afford to shoot a round of skeet if a box of shotgun shells cost $25 instead of $5?
Making the whole issue even more outrageous is the lack of any sound scientific evidence that lead used in traditional ammunition has had any measurable negative impact on the environment or wildlife. But that did not deter the radical CBD. One piece of “scientific evidence” in their petition was the impact of lead on bald eagles. But the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports that from 1981 to 2006, the number of breeding pairs of bald eagles in the U.S. increased 724 percent.
Even at ranges, where lead bullets and shot are deposited in significant numbers, the EPA itself has recommended safe, practical and very effective methods to prevent health or environmental threats.
The science never supported the CBD claims. Now the CBD knows that the law doesn’t support its position either. But don’t think that will stop them.
In addition to lessons in the law and the science, the CBD should have learned one more important lesson, but it’s something they already knew. In a fundraising e-mail shortly before its petition was filed, the CBD warned its supporters, “The NRA … will pull out all the stops against us.” They were right. Whenever there’s a threat to gun ownership and our hunting heritage, the NRA will pull out all the stops to defeat it.