In a Thursday vote, the California Assembly approved a ban on the use of lead ammunition. The ban, AB 711, would require the use of nonlead ammo in the taking of any wildlife in California, far expanding the state’s current ammunition laws. According to the LA Times, the 44-21 Assembly vote was split between party lines with a majority of Republicans opposing the measure. The bill will now head to the state senate for consideration.
Several notable animal rights groups have supported the legislation, saying that the use of lead ammo is harmful to animals such as the critically endangered California condor. The condor is North America’s largest land bird, and one of the longest-lived bird species with lifespans of up to 60 years. The bird is also very rare and vulnerable as a species. Groups like the Audubon Society and the Humane Society of the United States claim that when the birds eat hunter-shot game they are harmed by the lead ammunition inside. The bullet can act as a neurotoxin and the bird’s body can mistakenly incorporate the lead component with tissues and organs. However, the studies conducted by California universities, independent researchers, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have yielded conflicting results as to whether lead ammo was actually damaging the condor population.
The National Rifle Association and other opponents of the bill point to studies that show the bird’s resilience to lead poisoning as well as the 2007 ban of lead ammo in condor range, which yielded no significant results. Hunters also claim that alternative ammunition is much pricier–up to 30% more expensive–and is less accurate. The metals found in nonlead ammo has some conservationists worried as well. Containing copper, bismuth, and tungsten, some claim these metals could potentially damage the environment and wildlife.
California law currently requires the use of nonlead centerfire rifle and pistol ammunition when taking big game or coyotes in condor range. Hunting waterfowl with lead ammunition is also prohibited by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If AB 711 passes the state senate and is signed by Governor Jerry Brown, the ban will be put into place incrementally over the next two years.
Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service