- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2012

Second Amendment foes have reloaded in another attempt to restrict Americans’ use of firearms. Disguised as nature lovers, gun grabbers are repeating a demand that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ban the use of lead in ammunition. Forcing hunters to shell out for pricey substitutes is meant to discourage the sport and reduce gun ownership. Given the EPA’s propensity for overregulation, Congress should step in and ensure this restriction never happens.

Earlier this month, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the EPA on behalf of about 100 organizations in 35 states to forbid the use of lead in ammunition on the grounds that the heavy metal is toxic for wildlife. The group made the same request in 2010, but the agency declined to do so at that time, saying the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 does not grant authority to prohibit lead ammunition. Undeterred, the center filed a lawsuit in federal court, arguing that while the EPA may not be empowered to regulate ammo, the agency could designate lead a toxic component that is subject to restriction. The case is pending.

Whether at the direction of an activist judge or the EPA’s radical administrator, it’s easy to imagine a day in the near future when the agency joins the battle against gun owners. Legions of agents already have fanned out across the nation in an attempt to classify rainwater runoff as “navigable waterways” that fall under their jurisdiction, so no verbal contortion is too absurd for the EPA if it means enlarging its rule-making domain.

Environmentalists have charged that hunters scatter lead pellets over wilderness terrain, foraging animals eat the pellets, and some 10 million to 20 million creatures, mostly birds, die annually from lead poisoning. In 1999, the EPA concluded that lead shot in surface soil doesn’t break down and poses no risk to humans. Hunters say the high density of lead makes it the ideal ammunition ingredient for maximizing stopping power, while replacements like steel and copper don’t provide comparable impact and are more expensive.

In an effort to head off a showdown over ammunition, Rep. Jeff Miller, Florida Republican, introduced in February the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, which would prohibit the EPA from claiming authority over ammunition. The measure also would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act to clarify that materials used in hunting projectiles and fishing equipment fall outside of the agency’s purview. The National Rifle Association backs the measure.

Look for a wilderness lover, and you’re as likely to find a firearms aficionado as a gun hater. Appreciation of nature’s beauty is part of the reason hunters devote a sizable portion of their free time venturing into the wilds. Far from the liberal stereotype of gun enthusiasts as throwbacks of a less civilized age, these sportsmen pour money into wildlife conservation programs when they pay an 11 percent federal excise tax on ammunition.

Just as environmentalists seek to drive down the use of fossil fuels by making them too expensive, a similar strategy could render guns unaffordable. Gun owners should remain vigilant against efforts to chip away at the economics of firearms ownership and tell Congress not to allow the Second Amendment to fall victim to disarmament by other means.

The Washington Times