An­other round for lead ammo

Gun foes pur­sue dis­ar­ma­ment by other means

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

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.

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