NSSF: Backdoor gun control - Feds hid key data to get Calif. lead ammo ban passed

The Washington Times reported recently that the National Shooting Sports Foundation has obtained emails that it says indicate that a federal official withheld critical data on lead blood levels in the California condor until after gun control advocates in the California state legislature used the iconic bird’s plight to help push through a law last year to ban lead ammunition.

According to the report, the National Shooting Sports Foundation obtained the emails as part of a Freedom of Information Act request showing that John McCamman, California condor recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service, did not make the report public until the bill was on its way to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown. Mr. Brown signed the measure in October 2013.

From the article:

The annual update, which had been previously issued in June, found little change in the condor’s blood lead levels despite a 2007 ban on lead ammunition in the “condor zone,” a lengthy swath of habitat along the coast from Ventura County to Santa Clara County. The California state legislature acted at the urging of wildlife and animal rights advocates, led by the Humane Society, which argued that the California condor and other species were being poisoned by ingesting lead shot, fragments or contaminated prey.

Lawrence Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel, accused the Fish and Wildlife Service of deliberately sitting on the report in order to bolster the chances of passage of Assembly Bill 711, which ushered in the nation’s first statewide lead ammunition ban.

“[T]he email thread shows that they withheld that [information] from the public; they withheld it from the legislature purposely,” Mr. Keane said. “And why? Because the results show that despite the existing law and regulations that ban the use of traditional ammunition by hunters, it was not having an impact on condor blood-lead levels in California.”

Mr. Keane added, “Which suggests, as we have said all along, that condors in California are accessing lead from other sources, not ammunition.”

Hunters' rights groups have always pointed out that the lead-poisoning claim wasn’t backed up by scientific research, and warn that such laws are being used as a backdoor effort to ban hunting, since about 95 percent of U.S. hunting ammunition is made of lead.

Again, from the report:

The emails between Fish and Wildlife Service personnel show that a draft of the report was ready in April 2013. The state legislature passed a final version of the bill on Sept. 10, 2013. Seven days later, Mr. McCamman sent an email to agency wildlife biologist Joseph Brandt.

“Joseph — is this ready to go? I’ve attached a summary document — the state has been avoiding getting into the middle of the legislatures business (AB711) but now that that is over, this has to be ready to go. … [Are] you comfortable?” says Mr. McCamman in an email dated Sept. 17, 2013, provided by the NSSF.

The email suggests Mr. McCamman may have been trying to avoid embroiling the Fish and Wildlife Service on either side in the political debate over lead ammunition, but Mr. Keane said that such a decision was not the bureaucrat’s call to make.

“It’s disingenuous if he were to suggest that he was somehow trying to stay out of it,” Mr. Keane said. “By withholding that information, he injected himself into it, and again, that information was relevant — highly relevant — to the debate. The public should have been allowed to take that into consideration — certainly members of thelegislature, and even the governor, before signing the bill.”

“[T]here are other sources of lead in the environment that condors may be accessing, including five individual condors apparently ingesting chips of lead-based paint in a fire tower (since remediated),” said the report.

Anti-hunting extremists have pushed other states to consider the lead ammunition issue, but California is the only state to ban it altogether.

The article observes that it’s entirely possible that California’s Democratic-controlled state legislature would have approved AB 711 even if the Fish and Wildlife Service data had been made available before the vote — but “we’ll never know,” Mr. Keane is quoted as saying. “The legislature and the public did not have the opportunity to take that into consideration when debating and voting on AB 711,” he said. “And we think that is a very important issue, and the public deserves to know about it.”

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary, BFA PAC Vice Chairman, and an NRA-certified firearms instructor. He is the editor of BuckeyeFirearms.org, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website.

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