Lead Ban Chronicles – Polling The Ignorant To Sell Your Point?

March 18, 2013

Lead Ban ChroncilesIn the next few days, I expect that you’re going to start to see articles around the country about how a “majority” of Americans support a ban on lead ammunition.  I base this on the latest press release from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), in which they reference a recent poll of 657 registered voters.  The poll found that 57% of the individuals polled support a mandated ban on lead ammunition.  Only 48% supported an all-out ban on lead in ammunition, and 51% want Republican lawmakers to work with Democrats to craft a ban.

Here’s how the press release begins:

As the California legislature begins considering Assembly Member Anthony Rendon’s bill mandating use of nonlead ammunition for all hunting in California, a new national poll has found that 57 percent of Americans support requiring the use of nontoxic bullets for hunting. The poll, commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity, also found that more Americans support a ban on lead ammunition than oppose it and that a majority of voters think Republicans in Congress should work with Democrats to ban lead in ammunition.

Compelling stuff, huh?

But how much can you learn about a poll in which the participants have little or no demonstrated knowledge about the subject matter?  What’s more, how much can you learn when the poll is crafted by the same organization that has been running an extensive (and largely unopposed) campaign of press releases that demonize the subject matter… and the national media has been perfectly content to publish those press releases, verbatim, without so much as a call for opposing viewpoints?  Seriously, if you do a search for recent articles about lead ammunition, you’ll find identical “articles” in newspapers, blogs, and news websites around the U.S.  These “articles” often have different bylines, but the truth of the matter is that these news outlets have done nothing more than reprint the press releases from the CBD.

It’s no wonder that, given the information that the general public has seen about lead ammo, the general attitude is negative.  Hell, if all I knew was what the CBD told me, I’d hate lead ammo too.  But I know better.  I think some of the rest of you do too.  But the majority of the American public does not… and many others are simply confused on the subject.

So far, California has borne the brunt of it, but sooner or later the CBD is going to find that weak spot and they’re going to get this lead issue into a position where it will be decided by the public. It will be too late then to point out the fallacies and the deception. It will be too late to prevail with logic or common sense… or even to find compromise. Lead ammo will be banned because people have been convinced that it’s as environmentally devastating as lead gasoline additives, and as dangerous to our children as lead paint.

Attention, hunting and shooting community, we have have a problem!  The industry should take note too.  This stuff can’t go unanswered.  There needs to be a measured, intelligent, and logical response.  And it needs to come from someone with a little more clout than some itty-bitty blogger.

If you think the current ammunition shortage is rough, just wait until the talk around banning lead ammo starts to get serious! 



10 Responses to “Lead Ban Chronicles – Polling The Ignorant To Sell Your Point?”

  1. Neil on March 18th, 2013 20:38

    This is something I’ve seen on a lot of issues lately. I’ve even seen text, right down to specific typos, passed from “story” to story. Part is media bias perhaps, but a very practical concern might be the fact that most newspapers cut their staff to almost nothing in the last decade or so. Deliver a predigested story they can throw a byline on before their deadline and you’re likely to get in print. I’ve sure some folks on here who actually have been in print media can offer more insight as well.

  2. Phillip on March 21st, 2013 10:57

    Neil, it’s certainly not a new thing in the modern press. In my relatively brief time in that business, press releases were used as fodder for articles, but were not printed word-for-word unless they were clearly identified as press releases with appropriate credit in the byline. Here on the HogBlog, I get a ton of press releases. I generally use the ones I find interesting or noteworthy exactly as I did this one… I’ll take exerpts and comment on them. In other cases I’ll follow up with the source to discuss the topic and generate my own content, or to get a sample of an advertised product for testing.

    Dann, I’m pretty much with you here. Folks need to step up and counter some of these anti-lead claims with facts and practical reality… or they need to accept the inevitability.

  3. Dann on March 21st, 2013 07:58

    Fight the good fight now or you’ll go gentle into that good night.

    I’ve talked to hunters that actually believe that using lead ammo is akin to the black death. When I point out that the EPA estimates every American uses, and then disposes, 15.75 pounds of lead every year they seem confused.

    If you do the math, the average consumer, overwhelming, deposits more lead into the environment than a hunter.

    That begs the question; Why ban lead ammo?

    What species will be wiped off the planet if we don’t? What water table will be saved? Where are the people getting sick from meat shot with lead ammo?

    None, you say? Then WHY?

  4. Steve Clark on March 21st, 2013 12:51

    I hope that in the near future people get realistic about the misinformation about lead.
    Lead is a natural metallic element found in the environment Normally found in soil, rocks and other substances it is readily found in nature.
    The issue is using lead in bullets that can be ingested by predators that have a high social following. It is not about lead in the environment.
    Legislating lead out of society will not fix the problem. At this point in time banning all lead won’t work. We must use education as the tool without mixing in the anti-hunting agenda driven groups. The education must be from the ground up. Having some institute that gets a government grant to put out info and do some outreach to the public doesn’t help us at the grass roots level.
    Using pictures to tell a one sided story won’t help either. Realize that some hunters are educated and see when there is a underlying agenda. We are conservationists but we also know that the tactics being used will not end at banning lead. Arizona Game and Fish and now Utah have programs to reach the people that can make the difference. Using legislation won’t do it. Be realistic and start with education and outreach and use your money and clout to make positive changes. From the hunter in the field to the manufactures we must shift the way we do things. Help fund the programs that can make positive changes rather than groups with hidden agendas. Educate yourselves about groups rather than blindly donating. HSUS is a great example, all the ads show homeless puppies but less that 1% ends up helping those puppies.

  5. Phillip on March 25th, 2013 04:46

    Steve, my apologies for not replying to your post sooner, but thanks for dropping by and for leaving your comment.

    I agree that education about lead ammo is sorely lacking, although there are some folks making an effort to change that. I would think that, since it is in the headlines (particularly in CA), hunters would be pro-active enough to look into it themselves and get the solid truth. I think that it would encourage some to change their ammo, and maybe others would change their behaviors in the field (e.g. start burying or covering their gut piles). It would also reduce some of the fear that’s based on misinformation, such as the human health risks (negligible) and the reality that lead ammo isn’t wiping out the eagles or the coyotes. It may not be the greatest thing out there, but there’s certainly no environmental catastrophe.

    What I’d love to see, but probably never will, is the major outdoor media starting to educate about lead without political baggage. Take an unbiased, objective look and let folks start making up their own minds based on their own individual situations.

  6. ian on March 22nd, 2013 22:25

    This is a pretty dumb question but how do u know ifyour ammo is lead free or not? Its not like my boxes say: Lead Ammo! all over em…

  7. Phillip on March 23rd, 2013 08:09

    Not a dumb question at all, Ian. You’d be surprised (or maybe not) at the number of clients and guests who’ve showed up for hunts with the wrong ammo. But most lead-free ammo is marked on the box in one way or another. Sometimes it’s just harder to find than others.

    Winchester updated their ETip boxes so that it says Lead Free right under the ETip logo. The Razorback XT can be a little tricky, since the rifle and handgun bullets are lead-free, but the buckshot and slugs are not. Look for the LF (lead Free) label on the box, or you can read the product description.

    Remington and Federal made it easy for their proprietary, lead-free offerings. Remington has the “Copper Solid”, and Federal has the “Trophy Copper”. Copper = unleaded… except for copper-plated, of course. I don’t have a box of either right here at hand, but I’m pretty sure they’re also marked lead-free on the box. Federal also loads Barnes bullets in certain products, and of course Barnes has always been lead-free.

    Hornady’s GMX is labeled on the box as lead-free, both in the component form and in loaded ammunition. Lapua Naturalis is also lead free. Some other brands will require you to read the label more carefully, but since they’re marketing to the lead-free hunter, it will be on there somewhere.

  8. ian on March 24th, 2013 23:41

    Cool, thanks Phillip.

  9. John on March 27th, 2013 10:26

    Folks — thanks much for a most interesting dialogue. While it starts out concerned with the lazy media swiping press releases verbatim, it quickly moves to the substance of the issue at hand, lead ammunition.

    We do know a couple of things from the peer-reviewed scientific literature: lead is toxic, it gets to scavengers, like condors and eagles, through carrion left in the field in the form of wounded-lost game, gutpiles, and ranch and farm management activities (downer animals and varmint shooting) using lead ammunition; it fragments extensively when it hits meat, and it is a horrible way to die. We also know that copper ammunition in some calibers out-performs lead, though it is more expensive and harder to find.

    Here is another thing — the scavengers would rather you not bury your gutpiles, but leave them untainted in the field. Carrion eaters LIKE hunters — they are essential for their livelihood. This isn’t an anti-hunting issue at all. When you leave the gutpile, just make sure it isn’t tainted.

    While additional legislation may seem unavoidable in California, frankly the need for legislation can be avoided if hunters will just do what is best for them (and for scavengers) and not use lead ammunition. They need help to do that through the marketplace — like making sure there is enough non-toxic ammunition in the stores and that you can find it, and making sure that clerks who sell that ammunition know what they are talking about. The market will change if hunters demand it. None of us want to watch an eagle go through a lead poisoning death, and if we saw it, we would never shoot lead ammo again (in the field).

  10. Phillip on March 27th, 2013 14:15

    Thanks for dropping by, John.

    I’ve agreed all along that the evidence is pretty compelling that lead ammo can be harmful to scavenger birds (not so clear in relation to mammals, but nevermind). I also agree that hunters should take this into consideration when choosing ammo. In most cases, this unintentional “by-catch” isn’t necessary and can be mitigated.

    One method for mitigation, short of switching ammunition (this is still not an option for many hunters), is to bury or remove the gut pile from the field. Sure, that’s a potential meal for scavengers, but if you know that meal may be toxic, why would you leave it where the birds can get at it? If the scavenger birds are overly dependent on hunters’ scraps, then there’s a serious problem in that ecosystem.

    One of the reasons the program in AZ has been so effective is that it incorporates not only education and “free” non-lead ammo for hunters who want to use it, but also encourages hunters who choose (for whatever reason) to use lead to pack out the carcasses and gut piles… with the added incentive of a drawing for prizes. It’s a really neat program, it has been successful, but how sustainable is it? And how scalable? Will Utah be able to adopt it next?

    To dive a little deeper, the option to switch to non-lead still isn’t realistic for many hunters. Commercial supply is still limited to a subset of bullet sizes and types, and even for common loads, availability is often short or non-existent. It’s also still very expensive. Sure, increased demand will eventually increase supply and potentially reduce the cost. That’s a long ways off, though. And honestly, before that demand becomes significant enough to drive the market, the hunters in this country need to be better educated about the whole issue. More importantly, the political overtones need to be wiped clean.

    With this in mind, John, can you tell me what the FWS is doing to work with major outdoors media sources in an effort to promote lead ammo education? Are there efforts to get the mainstream guys (Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, Petersen’s, etc.) and the television programs to start the conversation? If so, what are the roadblocks? What about working with the ammo companies that sponsor the TV hunters and media hunts to get more lead-free product in front of the viewers? Hell, I remember Pig Man hunting with Hornady GMX and never once (to my knowledge) mentioning that it was lead-free.

    Until this conversation starts happening on that larger stage, without the political baggage, it’s naive to think there will be any significant sea-change in behavior. Most hunters I talk to around the country don’t even know that there’s an issue around lead ammo, and those that do have almost no understanding of the facts around the issue.

    I like to think I do what I can on the Hog Blog, but my reach is extremely limited. It’s got to be bigger.