Federal appeals court rules EPA has no legal authority to ban lead ammunition


A liberal federal appeals court has upheld The Toxic Substances Control Act which exempts the
Environmental Protection Agency from regulating spent lead bullets and lead shot used by hunters and recreational shooters.

The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Tuesday before Christmas was blunt in its ruling and said there was no way the EPA could regulation spent lead bullets and shot without also regulating the loaded ammunition, and that is specifically denied by the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act.

Environmental groups, which have made little headway in banning lead ammunition in states other than California or on a federal legislative level, have petitioned the EPA to regulate lead ammunition as a toxic substance, losing repeatedly both by administrative decisions by the EPA and in court.

The interesting thing about this ruling is that the three-judge panel was made up by liberal judges appointed by President Bill Clinton and current President Barack Obama.

“Given that bullets and shot can become spent only if they are first contained in a cartridge or shell and then fired from a weapon,” the environmental groups “have identified no way in which EPA could regulate spent bullets and shot without also regulating cartridges and shells,” said the decision by appeals judge David Tatel, the Clinton nominee. The two other concurring judges were Patricia Millett and Cornelia Pillard, both nominees of President Barack Obama. Tatel went on to write that the Toxic Substances Control Act specifically forbids the EPA from regulating ammunition.

The law was pretty open and shut, even for liberal judges.

The lawsuit was hoping to get a back-door ban on lead ammunition nationwide, and the National Rifle Association and the pro-gun lobby intervened on the EPA’s side in urging the court to uphold the EPA’s repeated dismissals of environmentalist claims through lower court rulings and the administrative process.

The sad part of the process is that there were 101 different environmental groups named in the lawsuit trying to get the EPA to regulate ìspentî lead ammunition ñ effectively banning all lead ammunition nationwide.

Increasingly, the groups are not interested in the science regarding spent lead ammunition but in forcing their agenda down the throats of the American public. There is no interest in the very clear law. There is no interest in the science. This is about pushing an agenda.

The environmentalists, the liberals, know better than everyone else. So they will use whatever means it takes to get their way.

Here in California, when the statewide lead ammunition ban was passed last year and be phased in over the next five years, a federal report on the impacts the lead ban has had on condors within the ìcondor zoneî was supposed to be released in June. This was about the time the debate on the statewide lead was beginning in the legislature, but this report was withheld by the federal government (the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is in charge of condor management and restoration) until after the bill had been passed.

Not surprisingly, the USFWS data has repeatedly shown that the lead ammunition ban in the condor zone has not helped reduce lead blood levels or chronic poisoning incidents in endangered condors. The environmentalists have howled about poor compliance by hunters or that the big birds were getting still getting ammunition lead somehow stockpiled in the environment. Ironically, there is data that proves that is a lie. Golden eagles are also affected by lead and the big birds also feed animal remains that had lead shot or bullet ammunition fragments. Before the lead ban in the condor zone, golden eagles in the same region also had varying levels of background lead and occasionally got enough to sicken an individual bird. The amount of poisoning wasn’t enough to threaten the population, but it showed that scavenging birds did indeed get lead bullet fragments. The lead ban in the condor zone has eliminated lead issues in golden eagles, proving the ban was being followed by hunters and that if ammunition was the only the only lead source for condors it would be working. It did work for golden eagles.

While it probably would not have had much of an impact on whether or not the statewide ban passed, it would have been nice to be able to include in the debate.

It has also exposed the hypocrisy of the environmental groups that continue to push for the lead ban in California. This was not a conservation issue. It was about banning lead ammunition in spite of the science — not because of it.

The same is true on the national level. The fact there were over 100 groups involved in a lawsuit that was almost certain to lose is a very real concern to the 50 million gun owners in this country. Why? Lead-based ammunition makes up 95 percent of the ammunition shot in this country. Non-lead ammunition is not only far more expensive, if lead were banned, it would take years for ammunition makers to be able to meet demand. Even with a five-year lead time, the companies are saying they are not likely able to meet the demand that will be created just in California.

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