WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill are reviewing legislation to block the Environmental Protection Agency from banning ammunition and fishing tackle containing lead, but the action won’t stop states from prohibiting the use on its own.
California is well on its way to becoming the first state to ban the component in ammunition because it fears the lead can poison those who eat wild game shot with the ammunition, or that other animals will accidentally ingest the metal in dead carcasses.
California Assembly Bill 711 to prohibit the use of traditional lead ammunition has already passed the state assembly. A vote on the proposal is pending in the state senate, where it is also expected pass and then be signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.
Opponents of the California measure say there is no scientific basis for the ban and that it would cripple the state’s $2 billion recreational sporting industry.
Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation wrote a letter last week to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife detailing the effects a ban would have on sportsmen and women as well as the ammunition manufacturing industry.
Keane said that without scientific evidence to back up claims that lead from ammunition would have an indirect impact on wildlife, lawmakers have no justifiable basis to restrict the use of ammunition.
“Hunters and sport shooters have traditionally been on the forefront of conservation efforts,” Keane said.
“If conclusive evidence were available, the hunting community would respond favorably, as it has done in the past. There are alternative examples to draw from; a ban of traditional lead ammunition is simply the wrong approach and will have a negative impact on hunters, sports shooters and the industry,” Keane added.
Congress came close to passing legislation last year to block the Environmental Protection Agency from banning lead in ammunition and fishing tackle.
The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act passed the House on a mostly party line vote of 274 yeas and 146 nays, and Democrats allowed a vote in the Senate to boost the reelection efforts of Sen. Jon Tester in Montana.
However, Senate Democrats loaded down the sportsmen’s act with new taxes and millions of dollars in additional government spending, including language allowing the federal government to purchase more private property to add to the national inventory, effectively killing any chances for final passage.
House Republicans plan to bring up new legislation again this session to block the EPA from getting involved in gun control politics and to prevent it from regulating lead as a toxic substance in ammunition and fishing tackle.
The EPA originally rejected petitions filed by environmental groups seeking the outright ban saying they don’t have the power to regulate ammunition but anti-hunting groups are redefining their arguments to file new petitions and Republicans say they want to stop the new effort before it takes hold.
The bill would likely mirror last year’s measure and provide a clear legislative basis for protecting sportsmen and wildlife management agencies from anti-hunting and fishing litigation through administrative gridlock.
An aide familiar with last year’s legislation said it would protect the use of traditional ammunition and fishing tackle by giving clear statutory direction to EPA regarding their authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Several national hunting, shooting and fishing organizations including the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, The NRA, the Safari Club, Boone and Crocket, the American Sportfishing Association, and the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, supports the Republican effort.
However, the federal legislation would not prevent states from acting on their own to forbid use of the products within its borders.