I would have liked for this week's column to be on the 2010 buck gun season harvest. As of 6 p.m., Wednesday, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources had not released any figures on this season, so I will have to discuss another subject.
The anti-hunters have united with environmental groups and now want the federal government to ban the manufacture, sale and individual possession of any form of lead ammunition (bullets, shotgun shells, etc). These groups argue that lead, which is toxic, should be regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act implemented in 1976. Since then, lead has been removed from paint, gasoline, plumbing materials and several other items. Lead was not removed from all ammunition and fishing tackle because lawmakers wisely stepped aside from this controversial issue.
Last month, three groups (The Center for Biological Diversity, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and an anti-hunting group called Project Gutpile) filed a suit in the United States District Court to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to do just that.
In 1994, the EPA Administrator Carol Browner proposed a ban on lead fishing equipment (sinkers, jigs and other pieces of fishing tackle). The argument was that any ingestion of just one small fishing sinker containing lead could result in the death of a water bird. Anglers responded quickly in large numbers, and Congress listened. Soon, legislation was proposed and passed to block the ban. If this new lawsuit were to succeed, a federal judge would have to order the EPA to set new rules designed to prevent all forms of wildlife from being poisoned by spent ammo and lost fishing equipment.
In 1991, lead-ban advocates got their way when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued its ban on lead shot for hunting waterfowl. This past August, the EPA denied a petition, filed by environmental groups, asking it to ban ammunition and fishing gear made with lead. The EPA stated it lacked the authority to do so. However, conservation groups contended that it does, and that EPA officials have been intimidated by powerful lobbying groups like the National Rifle Association.
We all know there will be problems by banning lead ammunition. It is well known that the United States manufactures more than 4 billion rounds of .22 rimfire ammunition a year. It has been this way for more than 50 years. Millions of shooters have taken up the hobby of reloading in the last 25 years. No doubt, some of them have hundreds, maybe thousands, of rounds of ammunition locked up in cabinets, closets and attics. Banning the individual possession of this kind of ammunition would be more difficult to enforce than prohibition.
Lead is a heavy, soft and inexpensive metal. Being soft permits it to expand when it hits a live target, thus creating a much larger wound cavity. This expansion kills the animal quicker and more humanely. Other metals (bismuth, copper, tungsten) are much harder and expensive.
If the nation bans lead ammunition without a proper substitute, this will simply be a back-door, gun-control movement in disguise. The new approach could easily end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, and their decision will be anyone's assumption.