Saturday, October 12, 2013

California Makes Lead Hunting Ammunition Illegal

Gun owners in California this week breathed a sigh of relief when Governor Brown vetoed some of the most restrictive gun control legislation proposed in the U.S.  It would have banned the sale of any rifle with a detachable magazine, along with several other things.  The bill went too far, as Governor Brown indicated in his veto message:
“The State of California already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, including bans on military-style assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines.  While the author’s intent is to strengthen these restrictions, this bill goes much farther by banning any semi-automatic rifle with a detachable magazine.

“I don’t believe that this bill’s blanket ban on semi-automatic rifles would reduce criminal activity or enhance public safety enough to warrant this infringement on gun owners’ rights."
Governor Brown correctly noted that the law would have banned rifles used in hunting, firearms training and marksmanship.

At the same time, he signed into law something I perversely wanted to see pass.  This is perversity in the classic sense, simple contrariness.  I wanted him to sign it so that the people who come up with these ideas can reap the unintended consequences of their short-sighted activism.  Governor Brown signed into law a ban on lead hunting ammunition.

Note that this ban is something Sacramento's Sheriff and many game wardens came out against.
In a letter to Brown on Thursday, Jones wrote that he was concerned because the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined that most non-lead ammunition meets the criteria for "armor piercing" and thus has banned the manufacturing and sale of such ammunition without special permission.

As a result, Jones argues that non-lead bullets have become scarce in most hunting calibers.
"I believe that this bill, if signed, would enact an undue burden on the entire hunting community, which includes many members of law enforcement," Jones wrote.

In their letter to Brown on Wednesday, the game wardens' association, arguing they are on the front line of enforcing the current ban on lead ammunition for hunting near condors, wrote that "there is insufficient data to justify such a drastic action across the entire state."
So why am I perversely in favor?   Members of law enforcement often back ill-conceived gun control schemes because they're unaffected.  Police always get an exemption.  Now I support our officers in their hard fight against crime, but I also want them to feel some of the burden other lawful citizens endure from these stupid bans that don't make anyone safer.  I want them to experience it in a way that doesn't make their jobs any harder, and this law won't.  Maybe they'll understand our concerns and upset a bit better.  Unfortunately, the ones who most need the lesson probably aren't hunters, so they will continue not to care. 

Further, wrong-headed activists who care less about lead and more about banning all hunting may get a shock.  I've written about the importance of hunting and fishing.  The short version is that most preservation programs rely heavily on income from hunting licenses, hunting tags, and special tax on hunting gear.  Game wardens rely on hunters to help keep animal populations at or below the environment's carrying capacity so there aren't horrific incidents of mass starvation, since there aren't enough predators to do the job.

With no significant number of non-lead hunting rounds available, Governor Brown has largely ended hunting in California.  Hunters will take their business to other states along with all the revenue and game control assistance they were bringing to California before.  California hunters will have to arrange trips to other Western states, while California's wildlife population multiplies unchecked and dies in mass starvation incidents.  It is highly likely an exemption will have to be added for game wardens, who will then have to shoot animals and leave them to rot instead of those same animals being harvested by hunters who would actually have used the meat.

I hate it that animals will suffer, but I do hope some lesson is learned from this.  I suspect my hope is in vain given the California legislature and voting base's history blithely ignoring the consequences of stupid decisions.

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