MILLER: Lead bullets under fire

Senate bill would protect ammunition from EPA grasp

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Should President Obama win in November, it’s a certainty he’ll try once again to ban lead ammunition. Just two months after he moved into the White House, the National Park Service suddenly announced it was banning lead bullets from its parks. The blowback from sportsmen was intense, so the agency backed down. Mr. Obama surely will exert “more flexibility” in a second term to accomplish this backdoor assault on the Second Amendment.

Sen. Jon Tester, Montana Democrat, introduced a bill to make sure that can’t happen. Just before the Senate adjourned Saturday to go campaigning, the body voted 84-7 to take up the Sportsmen Act during the Nov. 13 lame-duck session. It’s a priority for a number of pro-hunting groups, including the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).

“The threat to ban use of traditional ammunition without sound science is the most significant threat facing the firearms and ammunitions industries today,” NSSF senior vice president Larry Keane told The Washington Times. “If the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were to ban traditional ammunition using the Toxic Substances Control Act, it would destroy the ammunition industry in the U.S., crater conservation funding and create massive supply shortages for consumers.”

The ban is a priority for liberal groups like PETA, the Humane Society and the radical Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) that want legislation to prohibit anything but “nontoxic bullets.” This is mostly an excuse to sue ammo manufacturers out of business. In June, CBD filed suit against the EPA for not addressing the “toxic lead in hunting ammunition that frequently poisons our wildlife.”

Opponents are ridiculing CBD’s “Get the Lead Out” campaign. “The notion that you can get lead out of the environment showed these people should not have passed their high-school chemistry test,” said Mr. Keane. “Lead is in the periodical table. There is no more lead in the environment than there was 100 years ago.”

Don Saba, a research scientist and National Rifle Association board member, said that these groups are deliberately attempting to confuse the public into thinking the lead in bullets is the same as lead paint that is harmful to children.

“The lead that is used in ammunition is metallic lead and is a very inert material that does not dissolve in water and it is not absorbed by plants or animals,” Dr. Saba explained. “There is a tremendous toxicity difference between the highly inert metallic lead used in ammunition and the highly toxic lead compounds used in legacy leaded paints.”

The ammunition demonized by the self-styled environmentalists happens to fund highly successful animal-conservation efforts. The Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 set up an excise tax, now 11 percent, on ammunition and long guns and 10 percent for handguns. The resulting $7 billion in revenue over the years has gone toward restoring habitats for wild turkey, bald eagle, duck, elk and antelope populations.

America’s ammunition industry works on high volume and thin margins, manufacturing 9 billion cartridges a year, 95 percent of which have lead components. Lead is used in bullets because it is the perfect material — dense, heavy, soft and inexpensive. Asked for an alternative, Winchester Ammunition engineer Mike Stock replied, “We’d use gold if it was cheap enough to make bullets.”

The NSSF estimates a lead ban would result in tens of thousands of jobs lost as prices would necessarily rise 190 percent. Mr. Obama has killed enough jobs in his first term. The last thing our economy needs is another assault on successful businesses.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

 

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