Back in the waning days of ’08, America’s right-thinking pundits were semi-appalled when Obama’s right hand man admitted that a savvy pol should never let “a serious crisis to go to waste.” But c’mon; what’s wrong with that? The status quo is by definition, stasis. Not to go all Zen on you, when nothing happens, nothing happens. If you want to move the ball, wait until play begins. Or something like that. Anyway, TTAG has a short, proud tradition of pointing out that gun rights groups operate according to the same principle; they have a vested (i.e. monetary) interest in doing the Chicken Little thing. In other words, if there isn’t a good crisis to exploit, find one. And here it is: the EPA wants to ban lead ammo. Well, not them exactly . . .

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) is behind a recently submitted petition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking the feds to ban lead ammo. The move has unleashed the usual GGP (Gun Grabbers’ Paranoia). Here’s a comment from Shawn under the above YouTube video’s posting on snowflakesinhell.com:

Doesn’t matter what you say. No amount of public outrage is going to stop this if lisa jackson truly wants this. Only if these people have the common sense that this is BS. But we know anti-gun liberals do not consider facts or statistics. But considering the head of the EPA is a far left wing socialist radical appointed by obama…

Just think. The 2nd ammendment in essence voided overnight by an environmental proposal… And not a single bill had to be introduced. And all on the shoulders of a single person. It’s so brilliant its digusting.

That they don’t have the authority be damned. If they want to do it they will do it. They could get 90 million letters and comments. The phones could never stop ringing. There could be marched outside there offices for the next 3 months. They will still do this if they want to. You know liberals NEVER listen to the people anymore.

Yet I will still send my letter, and contact my senators, and put in my comment. Why, because its better to go down fighting than not at all.

Chill. First, take a hard look at the petitioners’ case. Click here to download the document. So does the CBD have a case? Or is the NSSF right to dismiss the possibility out of hand.

Toxic lead shotgun pellets and bullet fragments from hunting accumulate in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats, where animals often eat them because they are mistaken for grit or food (seeds). Birds frequently ingest spent lead shotgun pellets as grit normally consumed to aid grinding of foods in the gizzard during digestion. Ducks, geese, and swans have received much protection from this source of lead poisoning since 1991 through the federal requirement to use only nontoxic shot for hunting waterfowl, but similar restrictions in terrestrial habitats are few, scattered, and localized. Research has shown that over 75 terrestrial species of birds are known to be poisoned by spent lead ammunition (Eisler 1988; Fisher et al. 2006).

Evidence has accumulated over the past century and it is now incontrovertible fact that lead fragments in the bodies of animals shot with lead bullets or lead shotgun pellets are a serious source of lead exposure to scavenging animals that eat meat containing lead fragments and residue (Calvert 1876; Holland 1882; Grinnell 1894; Bowles 1908).

Second, there is an alternative: lead-free ammo. Is the high-price, low-performance case against lead-free ammo really that compelling? If manufacturers had to make lead-free ammo, wouldn’t that eventually drive down the price? And you gotta hand it to the bird people on the performance front: they went out of their way to address the issue. Here’s a short excerpt:

For all but the smallest caliber bullets (those used for varmint hunting), nontoxic ammunition is widely available. Currently available alternatives are either made completely of non-lead materials, such as copper, or designed such that a lead interior is protected from exposure upon impact. Other designs have been proposed and it is expected that the increase in demand will result in greater options of nontoxic ammunition. Non-lead bullets generally have equivalent, if not superior, performance when compared to their lead counterparts. Copper bullets were originally designed for the ““premium”” market not because of concerns over lead poisoning but rather for their enhanced ballistic capabilities.

Oltrogge (2009) reviewed the success of ammunition manufacturers in developing lead- free, expanding-nose centerfire bullets. The Barnes Bullet Company succeeded in 1985 in designing lead-free copper bullets that demonstrate good expansion without shedding copper particles. They have proper rotational moment of inertia, are made in traditional bullet weights, and despite the lower density, the over-all loaded cartridge lengths are within specification. These and other factors make them as capable as traditional lead- cored bullets. They are on the market as the X-Bullet series, in several varieties, chief of which are the Triple Shock and the MRX. The latter is shorthand for Maximum Range X- Bullet, which has an all-metal tungsten-composite core that is more dense than lead. It shoots further, with flatter trajectory, than any other lead-free bullet and surpasses many lead-containing bullets. Oltrogge (2009) reviewed some of the science of achieving these lead-free, centerfire bullets. Nosler and other companies are now making all-copper centerfire bullets, and availability is increasing.

Currently there are a number of lead-free copper hunting bullets produced, at least one of which——the Barnes X Bullet——is widely available. The Barnes X is made out of copper, a material that is lighter and more rigid than lead. Barnes produces a number of X-type bullets, including the X, XLC, and Triple Shock X, in a wide variety of calibers suitable for hunting game such as deer, elk, pig, and coyote. In order to promote proper expansion, Barnes bullets are designed with a hollow point that is fluted so that the tip peels back to form a mushroom upon impact. Barnes bullets have a ballistic coefficient between .220 and .555, depending upon the caliber and cartridge used. Barnes also reports that its bullets retain close to 100% of their weight after hitting most targets. Thus, Barnes bullets are lead-free alternative ammunition that offers equivalent or superior performance to that of high-quality lead bullets.

Another alternative bullet, composed of tungsten, tin, and bismuth (““TTB””) is being developed by various ammunition manufacturers and the military has been experimenting with a so-called ““green”” bullet that relies on the same metals to replace lead (Mikko 1999) . . .

In one survey, 90% of hunters and ranchers surveyed approved of the use of copper bullets (Ritter 2006). According to post-hunt survey results in Arizona, 88% of successful hunters who used non-lead ammunition said it performed as well as or better than lead bullets. In addition, 72% of all hunters said they would recommend the all-copper bullets to other hunters (Seng 2006). In general, experts appear to endorse the use of non-lead bullets (AGFD; Rees).

So why shouldn’t shooters go lead free? According to the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) letter to the EPA, the agency shouldn’t ban lead ammo because they don’t have the legal right to do so. [Download NRA letter here]. Which doesn’t really answer the question, but addresses the CBD’s clever end-run (we know you can’t ban ammo, but you can ban lead in ammo).

The public comment period began on August 25. It ends on October 31. The EPA must then decide whether to accept or reject the petition by November 1, 2010.  The day before midterm elections.

The odds that the EPA would move on this on the eve of the November mid-terms are somewhere between the cowboy and the convent (i.e. slim and none). And if the EPA decided to remove lead ammo from sale in the U.S., they’d gradually phase in the restriction, over several years.

While we look into the pros and cons of this petition, it’s certainly worth remembering that eternal vigilance is the price of peace. But The Boy Who Cried Wolf is also instructive. If you know what I mean.

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