The National Rifle Association (NRA) is in the spotlight again, this time for its latest efforts to fight against a ban on lead ammunition in California. According to conservation groups, this ban will protect California condors and other wild animals from lead poisoning.
When hunters use lead ammunition and leave carcasses or gut piles that contain lead shot pellets or bullet fragments, scavengers who eat what’s left can end up with lead poisoning, causing sickness and death.
Assembly Bill 711 would ban lead ammunition in the state, in addition to providing non-lead bullets to hunters free or at a low cost. If it passes, California will be the first state to require a switch to non-lead alternatives, such as copper or bismuth.
While some hunters are supportive of the ban and are switching voluntarily, the NRA is fighting it and has launched huntfortruth.org, a website intended to debunk scientific studies concerning the adverse effects of lead ammunition on people and wildlife and has named a number of conservation organizations and zoos on its list of enemies.
The organization’s bigger fear seems to be that this is just another step in the fight to ban hunting altogether, even though supporters of the ban continuously point out that isn’t the case and that this is an issue about protecting wildlife. The NRA used the same anti-hunting argument when it fought the issue back in 1991 when the Environmental Protection Agency banned lead ammunition for hunting waterfowl, but the organization’s paranoia was as unfounded then as it is now.
For California condors, even with the success of the captive breeding program, their survival is still questionable. They’re still being poisoned and as it stands now, they wouldn’t survive without human intervention. They’re currently being released, recaptured, treated for lead poisoning and then re-released in a cycle that could easily be halted.
As a result of the continued poisoning of California condors, the state banned lead ammunition for hunting in 2008 in their historic range which runs roughly from Los Angeles to San Jose. However, conservationists believe that a wider ban is needed to prevent condors and other birds, such as bald eagles and vultures, from dying as a result of lead poisoning because they venture beyond protected areas.
As the Washington Times points out in a breakdown of the site, the NRA continues to argue that lead isn’t dangerous without proving any valid information to back up its claim and “does not present a single piece of scientific, peer-reviewed evidence that specifically shows that lead fragments from bullets are not toxic to wildlife.”
On the other side, there’s a lot evidence to support the fact that condors and at least 130 other species continue to be poisoned by lead ammunition. A 2012 study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that continuing without a ban will inevitably lead to condors’ extinction.
The U.S. military is also making a switch to non-lead ammunition, which some now argue should also be good enough for hunters and that the military’s switch could help increase production and availability of alternatives, which would also reduce costs.
Fortunately, the bill passed the Assembly and is now in the Senate for consideration.
Please sign and share the petition asking the California legislature to protect wildlife and people by supporting AB 711.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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