Lead Ban Chronicles – CA Statewide Lead Ban Back On The Table

February 20, 2013

Lead Ban ChroncilesI’d heard some whispers about this, but I don’t usually like to run with rumors.  I know, sometimes it puts me a step behind when news breaks, but it also keeps me from looking like a damned fool when a hot topic turns into a cold splash of nothing at all.   

Point is, it looks like CA hunters are looking down the barrel of a fresh effort to ban lead ammunition across the Golden State.  According to this article from today’s Mercury News (San Jose), a coalition of organizations including Audubon and HSUS are again pressuring the CA legislature and the CA Fish and Game Commission to ban lead ammo statewide, for all hunting.  The argument would appear to be that, since the lead ammo ban in the condor range doesn’t seem to be working (condors are still getting lead poisoning), then the ban needs to expand beyond the condors’ range. 

The state already bans lead ammunition for hunters in the range of the endangered California condor, but environmentalists say a statewide ban is needed because overwhelming scientific evidence shows condors, bald eagles and other birds are still dying from lead poisoning when they eat dead deer and other animals shot by hunters.

The groups are sponsoring a bill in Sacramento that is expected to be introduced by Friday. They are also asking the state Fish and  Game Commission to pass a lead bullet ban.

“Countless wild animals suffer and die needlessly every year from the continued use of lead ammunition,” said Jennifer Fearing, state director of the Humane Society of the United States. “It is put in the environment and stays there. It’s toxic, and it’s cumulative.”

I don’t hold out much hope that either the Fish and Game Commission or the State legislature are going to push back very hard against this new effort.  It’s really going to be up to the hunting community in California.  We’ve already seen the depth of influence that HSUS has in the CA government.  CA hunters have absolutely got to organize a cohesive and agressive response if you want to continue to have any voice in the regulations that impact you and your sport. 

The potential is there.  We saw brief flashes of the strength of the hunting community during last year’s fiasco with Dan Richards, and with the hound hunting bill.  The efforts were not enough, unfortunately, but that’s largely because the efforts weren’t sustained, and in some cases they were just too late to make any difference.  Simply showing up, en masse, for a single State House protest won’t do the trick.  It will take persistence, education, organization, and money.  Remember, HSUS comes into this thing with nothing to lose, much to gain, and very deep pockets.  Jennifer Fearing and others have been working for years, chiseling away to make inroads throughout Sacramento.  

I would strongly recommend looking at an organization like California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA), and building the strength and influence of that group through both membership and money.  With the proper resources, this group could present a significant challenge to the influence of HSUS and other organizations.  But just buying a membership and sending donations isn’t enough.  Hunters have got to be actively involved, whether it’s through letter-writing and phone campaigns, rallies, or through working inside the organization to focus the message and push it through.  The worst possible thing you can do is just join the group and then wait for them to do the work for you. 

At any rate, this promises to be a tough fight.  The stakes are not unsubstantial either.  A fair number of CA hunters stand to be pretty soundly screwed if they’re no longer able to use lead ammunition. 



6 Responses to “Lead Ban Chronicles – CA Statewide Lead Ban Back On The Table”

  1. Neil on February 21st, 2013 10:25

    Oh yes. Combine that with other issues, like San Francisco, where I live, pushing to ban “military style hollow point ammunition” (huh?). Of course that would make it illegal to own any lead-free ammo since by nature it needs to be hollow point in order to expand. Awesome.

  2. JAC on February 21st, 2013 16:06

    Neil: Doesn’t the military use FMJ rounds? Don’t quote me, but I think that the Hague Convention banned expanding munitions a long time ago. I’ve never been to a San Francisco City Council meeting, but from that quotation I doubt it sounds very much like a bunch of gun geeks getting geeked out. Can they ban something that doesn’t exist? Ah well, it doesn’t matter. If the SF Council is anything like Phoenix’s, a good day is one in which they refrain from flinging their own feces.

    To Phillip’s point: I bought some lead core bullets today (Midway USA has them again) to practice offhand shooting at neck sized targets (ahem). The box was $19.00. The Barnes in the same caliber and weight were $32, I think. Since I only hunt with monometal bullets, it feels to me like I’m getting a $13 discount to make practice rounds. But even looking at it the other way, I’m paying a $13 tarrif for hunting bullets. That’s not very much. Even if I were to fire 150 rounds, I’d only pay an extra $40. But since I’ll use lead core bullets at the range, and because I would go to the range anyway, I won’t really pay anymore at all.

    For what it’s worth, I think Phillip should organize the blogging community to try placing the power of setting land-access and game fees in the hands of hunters rather than land owners. As Hawaiian Bruce points out, prices are racing upwards unsustainably. If we can convince enough people that prices are standardized, they become so. No?

  3. Phillip on February 21st, 2013 18:04

    Neil, I saw that proposal the other day and winced. And unfortunately, I think it’s a case of intentional ignorance on the part of the lawmakers. Inflammatory language is a wonderful way to push legislation through an ignorant populace. How many folks in SF have any clue what the military actually shoots. It just sounds scarier, like “Assault Rifle”.

    Keep in mind also that if they took the hollow points off of most of the lead-free ammo, you’d have armor-piercing bullets. As it is, it was a challenge for Barnes and some other companies to come up with copper handgun bullets that didn’t fall under the “cop killer” bullet ban. So if we ban lead ammo AND we ban hollow points…

    If this were any place other than SF, I wouldn’t have a moment’s concern that this foolishness would pass. But SF has shocked the hell out of me before, and they seem perfectly content to deal with the expense of fighting for their new laws in court. This wouldn’t be the first time.

    John, keep practicing. 😉

    The argument has been presented many times, that those who are concerned about the cost of lead free ammo should practice with lead, and then switch back to lead-free for hunting… in which case, that expensive box of lead-free bullets would last most hunters several years. While, for many hunters, it would involve re-zeroing the scope after practicing because the lead-free often has a significantly different point of impact than the lead-core, it is potentially a workable solution… especially for hunters like yourself who have no problem with the expense of the lead free ammo in the first place.

    But there’s a much bigger point here, and it goes beyond the high cost and limited availability of lead-free ammunition, and that’s the argument that there is simply no good reason to legislate a ban on lead ammunition across the entire state of CA… or for that matter, across the country (which is the agenda of organizations like HSUS, Audubon, and Centers for Biological Diversity). The incidental death of scavenger birds is certainly worth note, but it is not an environmental catastrophe.

    The fact that condors are still dying from lead is an indication that the lead ammo ban is not effective, but expanding that ban to areas where there are no condors is not going to change that reality. The people who keep shooting lead ammo out there are already breaking the law. Making a new law doesn’t change that behavior. Lead ammunition will still be available, and the people who want to use it will do so (and yes, I totally recognize the HUGE parallels between this argument and the arguments in the gun rights discussion).

    I haven’t seen the language of the new proposal yet, so I can’t speak to it more intelligently than this. But it can’t be me anyway. I can rant and rave, but I’m not even a resident anymore. CA hunters have got to pick up this standard and carry it. The California Outdoor Heritage Alliance is a good organization and probably the best place to coordinate the effort. But two or three spokesmen and a lawyer are probably not going to win this battle. It needs to be a community.

    And speaking of battles, thanks, John, but I’m not sure I’m ready to tilt at another windmill. It’s an interesting proposition, and maybe I’ll give it some more thought, but this one feels like it’s got way too many angles and pits.

  4. Neil on February 21st, 2013 19:44

    John, yes indeed, I too am well aware of what actual military ammunition is, but as Phillip points out, it Just Sounds Scarier, right? I wrote to all of my local elected officials, and presumable others have too, because now their rhetoric is a bit more nuanced. My thought is willful ignorance as well, and they are selling this by following the “we must ban these weapons that are made for the battlefield or police” bandwagon.

    ~Sigh~ How did these people get in my state?

    As for the ban itself, yes, it is basically the next attack from a powerful organization that is exploiting conservation concerns for their own ends. I already use lead free rifle ammo, but that is my choice.

  5. Josh on March 15th, 2013 14:07

    Here’s the problem: California hunters have done SQUAT to gain any influence among Democratic legislators – and COHA is partly to blame for this.

    I like COHA, and I like DU and CWA and the Mule Deer folks (I’m even a member of CWA) and many other conservation orgs. But their publicity is re-hashed or “conservationized” NRA-speak and thinly-veiled partisanship, not a force for real integration of hunting into the larger environmental conversation (where it squarely belongs).

    California hunters and fishers are being marginalized for the greater good of federal fighting and partisanship. The environment is, too.

    This lead ban proposal could have been thwarted, had COHA and other hunters worked on integration, cooperation, and diversifying their base (organizing in urban areas, organizing across language and ethnic boundaries to be better represented by people who mirror our legislature and have similar histories).

    There is a solid chunk of legislators in the Capitol Building in Sacramento who know the lyrics to “Carabina 30-30”, and whose fathers and uncles took them fishing and hunting. There is a history in California, that these folks are connected to, of connecting to the land through hunting and fishing that goes back 250 years, well before the gold rush.

    Instead, conservatives have fought the race fight and rural fight as if they were victims – and now they are. Now, we all are.

    Personally, I’m only upset about the ban because of the cost of rifle ammunition and the lack of real .22 choices. Otherwise, I don’t mind it so much (and hopefully, it’ll help drive down prices on non-lead ammo.).

    One definite upside to this: By co-sponsoring this bill, HSUS publicly supports hunting… and that should be made very, very public.

    I am going to speak to the author (Assemblyman Renden), and recommend that the bill include studies of lead vectors in particular habitats… but, since I don’t work on these issues anymore, it’s just me on my own time.

  6. Phillip on March 15th, 2013 16:51

    Excellent comments, Josh, and pretty much dead on! Thanks.