The EPA has quietly avoided a major political issue and a possible 2nd Amendment problem, but has let hopeful environmental groups down. According to a decision announced Friday, August 27, the EPA will not seek to ban lead hunting ammunition and fishing tackle. A petition was presented to the Agency by a coalition of conservation groups, but was denied in a written statement saying the agency does not have jurisdiction over these items.
According to FOXNews, the petitioners included groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity and the American Bird Conservancy. The petitioners contend that up to 20 million birds and other animals are killed yearly due to lead poisoning from spent lead hunting ammunition; including at least 75 wild bird species such as bald eagles, ravens and endangered California condors.
The EPA has the authority to regulate toxic substances under the Toxic Substances Control Act, reports FOXNews. However, the Act specifically excludes any article subject to excise taxes from regulation. This includes pistols, revolvers, firearms, shells and cartridges. In addition, a 2nd Amendment argument could be made by the powerful gun lobby that any regulation of hunting ammunition is nothing but the dreaded gun control under another name.
The EPA issued a written statement explaining its position. "EPA is taking action on many fronts to address major sources of lead in our society, such as eliminating childhood exposures to lead. However, EPA was not and is not considering taking action on whether the lead content in hunting ammunition poses an undue threat to wildlife."
Conservationists tried to put a difference face on the regulation they were seeking. Before the decision, Michael Fry of the American Bird Conservancy told FOXNews, "Ammunition itself cannot be regulated [under the Act], but the components itself can be regulated. In other words, you cannot ban ammunition, but you can require nontoxic ammunition ... We're not trying to ban handgun ammunition. This is strictly a toxicity issue, with lead poisoning wildlife."
Since fish do not receive any special 2nd Amendment protections, regulation of lead in line sinkers is still under consideration by the EPA.