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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Waging War Against Lead Ammo

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, February 11, 2012.)

Game harvested with
lead ammunition does not
pose a health risk.
It’s no secret that gun owners in our society battle to keep gun rights. Since I was in sixth grade, I’ve been aware of attempts to prohibit, control, and even confiscate guns.

It took me a while but I finally realized that the Second Amendment to our U.S. Constitution isn’t there to preserve hunting, and that gun prohibitions will damage not just hunters, but non-hunters too, and yes – even wildlife.

Enemies of guns seek to limit or revoke gun rights by various means. Some jurisdictions have tried to ban all firearms from public housing, a ban that would increase gun violence by creating victim disarmament zones. Does anyone really believe criminals inclined toward violence would obey that law?

Some cities have tried to ban firearms, and so far the U. S. Supreme Court has overturned those bans. Unfortunately, the legal system is painfully slow, and losers relentlessly create new restrictions so the issue will have to be litigated again.

Some enemies of guns see the difficulty of banning guns, so they wage war against ammo by attacking traditional lead bullets.

They argue that unrecovered animals killed by lead shotgun pellets are a threat to scavenging animals. Never mind that most lead pellets have a protective coating of copper to harden the surface for better ballistic performance.

They claim that using traditional lead ammunition poses a danger to raptors such as bald eagles, which may feed on entrails and unrecovered game left in the field. But there is a total lack of scientific evidence that lead ammunition impacts the populations of birds of prey. In fact, raptor populations have significantly increased all across North America, despite the use of lead ammunition since Europeans first settled the New World.

One has even created evidence that wild venison contains toxic lead. In his own personal study, a dermatologist from North Dakota claimed to have collected packages of venison from food pantries and his X-rays showed they contained fragments of lead. North Dakota health officials collectively jerked their knees and ordered state food pantries to destroy all donated venison and to stop accepting further donations, even though no test of meat from any animal killed by a lead bullet has shown lead content.

Turns out the dermatologist apparently has a bias. He’s on the board of the Peregrine Fund – a group that’s against the use of traditional lead ammunition for hunting.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did its own tests in North Dakota, establishing that consuming game harvested with traditional ammunition does not pose a human health risk. In fact, the average lead level in hunters tested was lower than that of non-hunting Americans.

The Iowa Department of Public Health agrees. It has done regular studies over the course of many years, and says, “If lead in venison were a serious health risk, it would likely have surfaced within extensive blood lead testing since 1992 with 500,000 youth under 6 and 25,000 adults having been screened.”
There is no evidence that anyone has ever had a case of elevated lead level due to eating harvested game.

Lead ammo bans are misguided because they actually hurt those they profess to help. They target the financial backbone of the North American model of wildlife conservation – the most successful model in the world.

Most people don’t know that many species have been blessed by funding from hunters using traditional lead ammunition. That’s because manufacturers pay an 11% excise tax on the sale of ammunition. Substitutes for lead will raise costs, and reduce hunter participation. Those who demonize lead ammunition propose nothing to replace that funding.

It’s not just game species that benefit from hunters’ dollars. The recovery of the bald eagle is a truly wonderful conservation success story, thanks to hunters’ taxes. Abundant and healthy prey animal populations have contributed to abundant and healthy populations of raptors.

Lead bullets are safe. They don’t disrupt this elementary relationship between prey and predator, nor do they expose anyone to the danger of lead poisoning. Every proposal to ban them is just another attempt to restrict the use of firearms.


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