War against ammunition heats up

Lead, first employed in weaponry by the Romans, has been the metal of choice for use in bullets and shotgun shells for more than seven centuries. However, since at least the mid-1980s, its use has been under attack by various environmental and animal rights groups, joined periodically by government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  In recent months the campaign has heated up considerably, and gives no sign of cooling down; within the U.S. or abroad.

The movement against lead in ammunition has progressed much farther in Europe than here.  For one thing, the culture prevalent in Europe (Switzerland being a notable exception) considers firearms ownership a privilege rather than a right; subject to easy and frequent government control.  The environmental and animal rights movement is also well-entrenched throughout Europe and within the European Union bureaucracy.

These forces in Europe have resulted in at least three countries — Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands – banning lead shot for all hunted species.  Other European countries, including France and England, ban lead shot for hunting waterfowl.  Such actions are the result of claims — not supported by any consistent science or medicine — that hunting with lead-based ammunition, and fishing with equipment containing lead, kills millions of birds and other animals each year as a result of ingesting lead traces from these “toxic” hunting and fishing activities.

Animal rights and environmental groups on this side of the Atlantic, however, are working hard to catch up to their European counterparts.  The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) trumpets this issue as a “deadly epidemic” that threatens humans as well as animals. Such efforts have paid some dividends for the anti-lead ammunition advocates in recent months.

Last year, for example, the National Parks Service implemented a plan to ban lead ammunition and lead fishing tackle in parks under its jurisdiction. 

The CDC has long been trying to solidify its jurisdiction over firearms and ammunition (defining a shooting as a “disease” is a stretch, but one that has not deterred the dauntless folks at CDC from relentlessly pushing the envelope of their jurisdiction).  The agency even has a lead poisoning prevention office, which among other things, conducts studies of lead levels in blood of people in areas where wild game is consumed.  No studies have yet shown dangerous levels of lead, but the studies — conducted, of course, at taxpayer expense — continue; perhaps until some imaginative researcher discovers the desired results.

Across the Nation’s Capital, the EPA earlier this month was again drawn into the lead ammunition fray as a result of a petition filed by the CBD and other kindred groups.  The petition asked that the EPA assume jurisdiction over lead in ammunition and move to ban it, pursuant to terms of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. The EPA last Friday dismissed the petition – correctly concluding that the law, which did in fact grant the feds extensive power to regulate lead, exempted firearms and ammunition from its reach. 

Had the EPA decided instead to accept these petitioners’ tortured arguments that somehow the language in the law did not really exempt lead in ammunition, because the offending substance could be separated from the other parts of the cartridges and shells, a battle royal would have ensued with firearms- and hunting-rights organizations.

Still, further actions against ammunition are certain, and more petitions are likely in the months ahead.  The bottom line is that this controversy has little to do with the health of either humans or wildlife, and much to do about gun control; whose advocates have taken a beating in recent Supreme Court decisions. Rather than licking their wounds, however, the gun control crowd remains busy looking up old friends at EPA, the CDC and elsewhere in Washington; and finding a more receptive audience.

59 comments Add your comment

Barring The Truth

August 31st, 2010
11:26 am

@Doug – Wrong. No one wants to ban ammunition. It is only the lead that needs to be banned. And this isn’t a ’scare’ but rather based on results of real research. A ’scare’ is when the republicans attempt to stir emotions based on unreasonable fear of something…. I already gave examples.

If lead is a poison, and if this has proven to be harming people that eat meat from those animals, why should anyone want to continue this practice? It is unreasonble to want to do so. There is logic here based on real evidence.

Again, no one is banning ammunition. There are other metals that can be made into shot. It doesn’t have to be lead.


August 31st, 2010
11:42 am

The Old Man – I’m reminded of an old cliche, “there’s no fool like an old fool!” A .38 caliber pea shooter? Try shooting yourself in the foot with a.38. Be sure to have arrangements made for transportation to the hospital.

Just another uninformed liberal comment! Bob Barr is correct in his comments, but no liberal will take the time to research the facts. Why? Because he doesn’t want to see the true facts; doesn’t want to be wrong.

Port O'John

August 31st, 2010
12:28 pm

Either the majority of the posters here cannot read, or maybe Barr’s syntax was so mangled that you couldn’t get it — but EPA denied the peitition saying it had no authority to ban lead bullets.

So a group petitioned the government for a change and the government said no, we lack the authority. The group has a first amendment right — even if you don’t agree with them — to petition the government.

There are plenty of reasons to criticize the government (or special interest groups like PETA and the NRA). This particular government action doesn’t deserve the typical anti-govt vitriol that Barr and his ditto-head posters expended here.


August 31st, 2010
1:05 pm

Enter your comments here


August 31st, 2010
1:56 pm

So, Bob, are you telling us that the gun folks can’t come up with a bullet, shot, or whatever to replace lead, and be just as effective. But I guess if you did then your conspiracy theory would have no merit.

Brendan G.

September 2nd, 2010
4:10 am

Hey retiredds,
That’s right… we gun folks can’t add new elements to the periodic table. Other metals than lead can be made into bullets, but A. They are too light to be optimally effective (aluminum, steel); B. They will damage the bore of the firearm (steel, tungsten) or C. They will be so expensive that ordinary folks won’t be able to afford shooting anymore (solid copper, bismuth, tungsten.) Here’s a suggestion – if you really want to help the environment, lobby to eliminate the use of DU (depleted uranium) in military ordnance. Oops, I forgot you’re a liberal – and as such you’re not averse to weapons and killing, so long the weapons are employed (and the killing done) by properly-authorized agents of the state.


September 7th, 2010
10:59 am

Steel shot will work in shotguns, but no suitable substitute has been found to replace lead that works well in pistols and rifles. If the use of lead in ammunition were prohibited our guns would be useless. This is just a back door attack on the 2nd Amendment.


September 17th, 2010
2:41 pm

‘Such actions are the result of claims — not supported by any consistent science or medicine — that hunting with lead-based ammunition, and fishing with equipment containing lead, kills millions of birds”

But there is lots of research that shows that ammunition causes lead leaching into the water supply and harms people. Just do a search for “lead ammunition water supply research.” The US DOD had lead leach from a Massachusetts firing range into Cape Cod.

We banned lead from paints and gasoline for health purposes. Now that it’s the same case for lead ammunition some people want to claim a false flag argument that it’s for some political purpose. It is not; it is for health reasons. No one is restricting weapons, ammunition or hunting. You just have to use ammunition that is not toxic. How is that a problem?


September 17th, 2010
2:43 pm

David said: “no suitable substitute has been found to replace lead that works well in pistols and rifles. If the use of lead in ammunition were prohibited our guns would be useless. This is just a back door attack on the 2nd Amendment.”

But DOD uses non-lead ammo just fine, the M855A1 ammo AND uses it in combat.