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Calif. on verge of becoming first state to ban use of lead bullets

Lead bulletsSo much for hunting in California: the Golden State may become the first state to impose a full ban on hunting with lead bullets, as a bill requiring that all ammunition used for hunting in the state be made of something other than lead is currently awaiting Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.

The bill, AB-711, was overwhelmingly passed by both the State Senate and State Assembly this summer. Brown has until Oct. 12 to decide whether to sign the legislation, however if signed the law wouldn’t be fully implemented until 2019.

The law wouldn’t prevent Californians from using lead bullets for target shooting and other firearm-related activities, however.

Both environmentalists and gun control activists have pushed for the legislation, noting that the lead bullets – and the lead fragments left by the bullets – are making their way into the country’s edible meat supply. They point to a 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and the North Dakota Department of Public Health which found that the lead in bullets is so prevalent in meat harvested through hunting that pregnant women and children shouldn’t eat it.

“The Centers for Disease Control and leading scientists from around the country agree that there is no safe level of lead exposure for humans,” Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, the chairman of the Assembly Health Committee and a co-author of the bill, told The San Francisco Chronicle

The National Rifle Association, one of the country’s largest pro-gun rights organizations, has led the charge against the bill. Among the reasons the NRA cites in its opposition of the bill is that the 2008 studies never conclusively linked consumption of lead from bullets with illness in humans or other scavenging animals, that alternate bullet types – including copper bullets – are more expensive, and that the state would lose millions of dollars in revenue from hunting license fees that now help pay for the state’s conservation efforts.

“These condors are flocking around both official and unofficial dump sites. They are vultures,” Chuck Michel, a lawyer for the NRA, told the Chronicle. “They also congregate around lookout towers, and there are pictures of them eating the chipped lead paint. The point is, there are alternate sources of lead in the environment which are probably the source of the lead.”

In August, MSNBC’s Al Sharpton blasted the NRA for its opposition to the lead bullet ban, claiming that the pro-Second Amendment organization is out to get pandas as a result of its opposition to the bill.

“The NRA is out with a brand-new enemies list,” the Reverend said on his show “Politics Nation” at the time. “Topping the list – this guy – that’s right, Yun Zi, from the San Diego Zoo…just celebrated his fourth birthday. And the NRA considers him and the rest of the liberal do-gooders at the zoo to be ‘threats to freedom’.”

California had passed a law in 2007 that banned lead bullets for hunting in 14 counties that lie within the historic habitat range of California condors, an endangered bird whose population decline has been linked to lead bullets. Approximately two dozen states also have partial bans on lead bullets for hunting, with the majority of them covering sensitive wildlife refuges.


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