Hunting Rights Coalition Scores Victory For Lead Ammunition

A striking victory for hunting rights was scored in federal appeals court last week by the National Rifle Association (NRA), hunting advocates and the U.S. Forest Service. At issue was a contentious effort to ban lead ammunition in an Arizona national forest.

On Friday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a unanimous rejection of a joint effort to coerce the Forest Service to ban lead ammo in the popular Kaibab National Forest.

The push for the ban came from the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council.

The court battle raged for 11 years after a 2012 filing that charged the Forest Service failed to regulate lead ammo in the national forest. This contention was challenged the next year by the NRA, the Safari Club and the National Sports Shooting Foundation.

According to the environmental lobby, animal carcasses left behind by hunters when they are not found or after field dressing contain toxic lead ammo fragments.

These, it said, may be eaten by other animals.

Michael Jean, the director of the NRA’s legal arm, hailed the ruling as a triumph for gun rights. “This NRA victory is a significant setback for gun control and anti-hunting advocates who see ammo bans as a pivotal leap in their agenda.

Litigants against hunting rights attempted to connect rules governing commercial waste with hunting activities of everyday Americans. This did not sit well with the appeals court, which resoundingly rejected the argument.

The federal government is the deed holder for the massive forestland in Arizona, but it largely defers to individual states on hunting regulations. Arizona issued a recommendation for hunters to use copper ammo and even supplies it, though it does not ban lead ammo outright.

Hunters have largely already switched to the copper alternative in Kaibab.

Traditional lead ammunition breaks apart after striking game animals and may be ingested by others — particularly scavenger birds.

The NRA recognized the ruling kept decisions over wildlife management at the state level. The organization also noted that environmentalists incorrectly attempted to use a federal law governing waste disposal onto average Americans enjoying the tradition of hunting.

This marks another clear victory over forces seeking to incrementally strip away Second Amendment rights.