Bill That Would Ban Lead Ammo Regulation Advances Through U.S. Senate

July 09, 2014

(Photo courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife)
A California Condor that has been tagged for tracking. Only a few hundred birds exist worldwide, about 70 of them in Arizona and Utah, according to the Peregrine Fund.

A bill moving through the United States Senate would ban federal officials from regulating lead bullets. That ammunition can often lead to the death of an endangered bird with a small population in the Southwest.

The Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2014 contains a number of provisions, including a push to expand shooting ranges on public land. Another piece of the bill bars the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating lead fishing tackle or ammunition.

Lead bullets are the leading cause of diagnosed death for the endangered California Condor, which has a population of about 70 birds in northern Arizona and southern Utah. Some conservationists say banning lead ammo will be good for both animals and humans.

"This is not about getting rid of ammunition," said Bill Snape, Senior Counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity. "There are readily available alternatives, copper for instance, that's just as effective, much more safe, and just about as cheap."

But other conservationists said banning lead ammo isn't necessarily the solution for protecting endangered condors, and point to successful programs in Arizona and Utah to get hunters to voluntarily switch bullets.

The bill is supported by the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry's trade group.

"This legislation would leave the decision on the regulation of what implements can be used for the taking of game where it belongs and where it exists now, with state fish and game agencies," said NSSF Senior Vice President Lawrence Keane.

The bill still needs final approval from the Senate. A similar measure has already passed the House.