California Creates Nation’s First Outright Ban on Lead Bullets for Hunting

California is the first state to ban lead bullets for hunting under legislation signed October 11 by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Under the bill — AB 711 by Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, a Lakewood Democrat — the ban would occur “as soon as practicable” but no later than July 1, 2019.

images-3“There is simply no reason to continue using lead ammunition in hunting when it poses a significant risk to human health and the environment,” Rendon said in a stament after Brown’s signature. “California is now the country’s leader in eradicating an unnecessary source of this lethal toxin.”

Limits on the use of lead bullets exist in more than two-thirds of the states. California has banned lead bullets in condor habitat since 2007. Arizona encourages hunters to do the same in its condor zones. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service outlawed lead shot in waterfowl hunting in 1991.

In 2009, the National Park Service announced the goal of eliminating the use of lead ammunition.

The more than 40 opponents of the bill, including Ducks Unlimited, the Alliance of Dogmen and the National Rifle Association said there wasn’t enough nonlead ammunition available and that a ban would reduce hunting license revenue.

Rendon’s bill “erodes hunting in California by mandating the use of ammunition that is not widely available,” said an NRA mailer  opposing the legislation.

The analysis of Rendon’s bill by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water says 37 manufacturers make hunting cartridges with non-lead bullets.

Prices are comparable: A box of lead-free cartridges runs $30 to $33 while a box of  lead cartridges are $26 to $37, the analysis says.

Citing a November 2012 study appearing in AMBIO, an environmental journal published by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the analysis says “virtually all lead bullet calibers used for hunting are available in non-lead versions, as are the hunting cartridges themselves.”images-5

In the objections it lodged with the Senate committee on Rendon’s bill, the NRA says lead poisoning of wildlife continues despite a partial ban on the use of lead bullets in California.

“There are serious questions about the purported nexus between traditional ammunition and lead poisoning and the mortality in California condors and other wildlife,” the group’s opposition letter says.

Said the Humane Society in support of Rendon’s measure: “The science is clear: Lead ammunition is dangerous and the market is continually expanding to fulfill the nonlead ammunition demand.”

The lengthy phase-in period was added ot the bill to address worries by opponents over the availability of nonlead ammunition.


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