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By Larry Keane

Sometimes the best thing to do when activists attack is to let their arguments fall under their own weight. That’s what happened when Environmental Health News (EHN) published a series on traditional ammunition.

The activist news service that describes itself as, “a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to driving science into public discussion and policy on environmental health issues, including climate change,” attempted to smear NSSF by accusing the firearm and ammunition industry’s trade association of being “science deniers,” copycatting “Big Tobacco” to sell traditional ammunition and completely misrepresenting hunting’s role in wildlife management.

This is now a standard tactic of the political “left.” Attack anyone who challenges the orthodoxy as a “science denier.” At the end of the day, EHN’s breathless tirade against traditional ammunition and hunting exposes land-mine sized potholes that EHN refuses to acknowledge.

NSSF chose to answer questions from EHN’s reporter, Samantha Totoni, despite her previous reports targeting traditional ammunition. The firearm industry has nothing to hide in this debate. More information provides gun owners educated choices.

The facts are clear. Traditional ammunition has been used for hunting in North America for over 400 years. The fact is there has never been one case of an individual suffering lead poisoning due to the consumption of wild game.

Selective Editing

The fact there are no reported cases of individuals suffering lead poisoning due to harvested wild game consumption was offered to EHN’s Totoni, but didn’t make the final edit. NSSF is agnostic when it comes to which types of ammunition hunters and recreational shooters should use. There are choices available in the market, including alternatives offered by traditional ammunition manufacturers. That choice should be left to the buyers, not dictated by agenda-driven publications seeking blanket public policy decisions.

Policy decisions regarding wildlife management must be driven by science. It is critical to ensure that agenda-driven policies don’t harm the incredibly success of the North American wildlife model. That model brought back Rocky Mountain elk, whitetail deer, wild turkeys, pronghorn antelope and waterfowl from dangerously low levels to teeming populations.

This model relies on what’s termed a “user pays-public benefits” system. That includes firearm and ammunition manufacturers that pay the Pittman-Robertson excise tax that’s contributed over $14 billion to wildlife conservation since 1937. The success of this program isn’t limited to game species, or those animals that are hunted. This program also contributed to the successful recovery of the American Bald Eagle, which has been removed form the Endangered and Threatened Species Lists.

Weaponizing Science

Accusations of denying science fall flat when the firearm industry points to studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2008 that found blood-lead levels in hunters consuming wild game harvested using traditional ammunition were actually lower than individuals in the same community that didn’t consume wild game.

Ammunition spread expansion copper
Dan Z. for TTAG

The CDC study showed that no hunters using traditional ammunition had elevated blood-lead levels even approaching the threshold of concern.

None of this denies science. It relies on it. This seems to be more of a case of projecting what anti-hunting groups are actually doing themselves and attempting to tar firearm and ammunition makers.

That explains the accusations that ammunition makers are following the “big tobacco” playbook. The first and biggest problem with this argument is that the same ammunition makers producing traditional ammunition also produce alternatives.

Bald Eagle
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The science of wildlife management is based on population models, not sick or injured animals. If the intent of wildlife management was to end injury to animals, that would eliminate hunting altogether. That goal, though, wouldn’t end with targeting hunters using traditional ammunition.

Environmentalists advocating for sustainable energy through windfarms would be forced to tear down wind turbines, which are responsible for killing between 140,000 and 500,000 birds per year. That’s predicted to rise to as many as 1.4 million birds a year from 200 separate species.

Vehicles would also be banned to end wildlife collision deaths and injuries. Even the lead used in car batteries would be banned, since the naturally-occurring element is a critical component for the batteries used in cars – especially in hybrid and all-electric vehicles.

The “Big Tobacco” smear ignores the fact that hunting and fishing is constitutionally protected in 23 states, and fishing is constitutionally protected in two more. Harvesting wild game is a right of the people. It’s also been proven that initiatives to ban traditional ammunition — along with overreaching gun control — results in nose-diving statistics of hunters going into the fields, woods and marshes. Licenses sold to California hunters each year decreased approximately 70 percent, from over 750,000 in 1970 down to 225,000 in 2019.

That’s created a public lands funding crisis in California, since hunting and fishing licenses, combined with the Pittman-Robertson funds distributed by the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund, pays for conservation lands upon which wildlife depends to thrive.

Legitimate Purpose

Finally, EHN’s misrepresentation of hunting’s role in sustainable wildlife conservation must be addressed. EHN’s report accused NSSF of not answering the question for their position on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services on one of the seven principles that states, “Wildlife can only be killed for a legitimate purpose.”

NSSF did answer. “The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service also lists hunting as a wildlife management tool and outdoor tradition,” NSSF wrote in response to Totoni’s direct question on taking of wildlife. NSSF even provided the link to where USFWS states this so she could see for herself that hunting is a crucial tool for sustainable wildlife management and conservation.

That was omitted. Some might call it cherry-picking data to drive an anti-hunting agenda.


Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.



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  1. Leftists are imbued with a sense of moral superiority that allows them to justify their lying as in the service of the greater good. These days, it seems, there’s no such thing as objective truth. Everything is subjective and emotion trumps dispassion.

    • For anyone who has driven the I-15 between SoCal and Vegas…you know those three huge solar turbine generator arrays on the CA side of the state border, towering a few hundred feet into the air with the towers blazing bright like the sun during daytime? Those huge arrays were installed with the belief that they’d provide only benefits out in the middle of the desert.

      Unfortunately, almost immediately upon going live, the local bird populations began dropping. It was soon discovered that the (few) birds that lived in that arid region were being drawn toward the towers like moths to a flame. The mirror arrays are so tightly focused, the birds don’t know they’re in danger until they pass into the radius, and are quickly cooked.

      The towers continue to operate. I guess going after ammo makers is politically easier than electric utility companies, because even vegans use electricity for their iPads and Teslas.

      • “The mirror arrays are so tightly focused, the birds don’t know they’re in danger until they pass into the radius, and are quickly cooked.”

        And wind turbines are bird food processors. The birds will eventually learn to avoid those areas, or go extinct. And extinct is just nature’s way of saying you weren’t equipped to deal with it.

        I look at it this way – It’s an opportunity to build nature preserves immediately surrounding those locations that can keep populations of scavengers well-fed… 🙂

    • This problem has become severe. It’s not a “left” problem it’s a people problem.
      Science brought us out of the dark ages and sociopathic manipulators are bringing us to the brink.
      I ask young people to please listen for anyone trying to “group” them by sex, religion, team, whatever, as the next step is to inform them the “others” have humiliated them and must be destroyed.

  2. I’m not a hunter, so I don’t care what ammunition FUDDS use. Hunting is just a silly reason to buy ammo.

    And those black rifles just throw tons of lead all over the place. No one needs more than four rounds in a rifle used in hunting.

    The founders made out quite well with single shot rifles used for gathering food.

    Forests and wild game should be left to manage themselves, just as they have for billions of years.

    “Hunting” is just people proving they cannot find meat in the grocery store.

    Defund hunting.

        • You’re new here, if you stick around long enough (highly doubtful) then one day, will understand Sam’s sense of humor… 🙂

      • “Now do farming. ”

        Crop farming is for people who can’t do hydroponics. Animal farming is for people with affinity for slop and crap.

        (I know, kinda weak but I got caught flat-footed here)

        • City boys. Beef stand on grass, front of beef eat grass, back of beef drop cow pie on grass. Substitute corn and you get TASTY juicy succulent beef (vs crap grass fed beef). Still get cow pies at rear of critter (otherwise know as fertilizer).

          Also apparently critter produces CO2 but I don’t give a tinker damn. CO2 makes trees (and grass and corn) grow.

          More beef – fewer progtards.

        • Meat is murder, milk is slavery!

          I’m not sure how potty-training calves is going to reduce greenhouse gases…I mean, they still produce all that methane no matter where they’re leaving the cowpies…

        • The concept of hydroponics leaves a bad taste in my mouth, pun intended. My wife has a cousin back in “Parador” who wanted to build a hydroponics operation. I had some connections in Ag at the time, and was able to get some cutting edge info for him, to help him get started. Soon after, the rascal stole nearly $750 from us (which was a wheelbarrow full of money there, like 4-5 months wages), plus several thousand from her mom. I don’t trust those fake food guys any more.

    • I shot a turkey last year. Was the first one I ever shot out of my camo. No one appreciated the feat tho, they all ran from the Kroger freezer section pretty damn fast.

      • “I shot a turkey last year. Was the first one I ever shot out of my camo. No one appreciated the feat tho, they all ran from the Kroger freezer section pretty damn fast.”

        Now, that’s funny !!

  3. What has happened to the Democratic Party? It used to be the party of working people and was bullish on the US, wanting growth. Conservation is right and just. Taking animals in a managed fashion and building back the herds/making room for water fowl/managing fishing and hatcheries, is a good thing for the people.
    If these laws and taxes were not used, these animals would not be. The management of the system has been good for all. How can these groups justify their beliefs? Many people that hunted were lifelong Democrats. We need to scrap the 2 parties and start over. They are rotten from the inside.

    • “What has happened to the Democratic Party?”

      WHAT world have you been living in Mr VanWinkle? The dem party has been the home of the American marxists (progs) for since the late 1800s.

      • The DNC has been America’s party of racism, misogyny, and authoritarian tyrrany since its creation by Andrew “Trail of Tears” Jackson. The only thing that has changed is that they got better at lying about it, just as Malcolm X warned.

      • Disagree with your timeline. It was after the 1968 Democratic Convention when the Party turned their back on the working class.

        Even ‘liberal’ Hubert Humphrey “Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. This is not to say that firearms should not be very carefully used, and that definite safety rules of precaution should not be taught and enforced. But the right of citizens to keep and bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against a tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved always to be always possible.”

  4. How is this evidence of EHN “shooting itself in the foot?” They are publishing misleading information which “lacks context,” as fact checkers like to say. The media and others will regurgitate this information despite the scientific evidence, perhaps leading to more lead bans. Don’t wait for Snopes and Politifact to come to our defense. NSSF took the high road (which I commend), but in the final analysis gun rights will end up shot in the back.

  5. All anyone does now is decide on a thesis then manufacture whatever garbage they need to to support that thesis knowing full well between the abundance of mouth-breathing morons and the partisans who already agree with said thesis getting high on confirmation bias their job is done.

    Objective truth and hard data are the fools on the hill.

  6. Today’s dumbbell democRat will follow the wishes of what funds the party and that would be socialist communists inline with the ideology of the communist terrorist “kill your parents” bill ayers.
    Then there are pathetic RINOs like mcconnell, romney who refer to the aforementioned dirtbags as their colleagues across the aisle.
    In other words, the American people have no real voice in DC.
    I spoke with a fellow who worked for the EPA and was told projectile lead was not a primary concern. It was lead accumulated in one spot or has been ground into a powder form that was of concern. Civil War ammo can be found buried and hardly deterorated.

  7. One of my far- left sisters was married to a hunter. That guy was an insufferable clown and the marriage did not last. However, she talks about shooting and gutting her first deer as the time she felt most alive, most aware, most appreciative of the natural world.

    She is still a socialist, still a leftist. But she has that enlivening memory. She does not hunt anymore, but I wish she would. She is single, so I hope she meets another hunter.

    (I do not hunt and have no desire to do so.)

  8. I don’t know which is worst:

    A. Taxation of an enumerated right,

    B. The proceeds of this tax providing places for POTG-hating animal worshippers to practice their cult, or

    C. Fudds gushing with celebration of A. and B.

    • You have a point, but then you don’t know the facts either. When the tax was passed in the middle of the Depression, there was almost no wildlife left in many states. Hunger will do that. In my area deer and turkey were imported from other areas for foundation stock. It is a tax on an enumerated right, and what it funds enables the ability to use that right.

      It’s to fund hunting and fishing only; if some of those improvements benefit others is fine by me. Same as hunting and fishing licenses. OTOH funding non-hunting wildlife and nature access is not. Looking over the past it’s been properly used, but some problems in the last 10 years. (Looking at you Gov Kaine, gutting the Virginia DGIF)

      • It’s ironic that you presume to tell me what I don’t know, while demonstrating your own ignorance of the law. “It’s to fund hunting and fishing only” simply isn’t true, by NSSF’s website or FWS’s. Nor does “the ability to use that [2A] right” have anything whatsoever to do with hunting, much less fishing.

        The Constitution codifies objective and enduring principles that exist independently of the facts of the moment. I cannot rob you (deprive you of your rightful property without due process of law) and claim Constitutional protection because I was hungry.

  9. I’ve ate lot’s of game killed with lead. I feel fine and have more common sense than a pencil neck. What’s the problem?

  10. @Geoff “A day without a demented troll is like a day of warm sunshine” PR
    “Sam, I shit you not, were you aware cows can be trained to urinate and defecate in a specific area, if there’s a tasty treat in it for them?”

    Told ya’. Mine was a weak, instant response. What I get for calling an audible.

  11. ” *Snicker*…”

    You’re throwing candy bars at me now?

    Leaf ’em on the porch. Will collect them when I get back from the bar tonite. Don’t put the candy up high, I won’t be able to reach up that far.

      • “Beef critters LOVE stale candybars. Frequently used as feed supplements in confinement feedlots.”

        No wonder the price of candy bars keeps going up.

      • The local bakery used to give us old pastries that survived the “day old” shelf. We could get a 100 lb feed sack full for 10 bucks, at the back door. Our hogs loved getting a treat, and the only treat better than old pastries was starling chicks. Made for some tasty side meat, I can tell you.

  12. Your average glass of municipal tap water has a higher concentration of lead than any game animal taken by lead shot.

    • Don’t know if it is still the case, but some years ago tap water in Reno did not meet the EPA standards for discharge of silver laden water into the sewer systems. So, if you were a business and allowed tap water to flow down the drain, technically you were violating EPA regulations and could be fined. Non-businesses were to covered, so they were free to discharge all the silver-laden water they wanted.

      The silver was in the water naturally, coming from running over silver deposits in the earth in quantities not worth mining, but still present.

      I never heard of anyone dying of silver poisoning, although I suppose it might be possible. Not enough of a metallurgist to be able to render any kind of an opinion.

      • I was taught that humans and mammals can eat or drink vast amounts of metallic silver. Indian desserts are wrapped in silver foil you then see in the toilet later. BUT silver is Krypton to algae. Small amounts just exterminate algae and hence anything that needs algae.
        Also Werewolves.

  13. @neiowa
    “City boys. Beef stand on grass, front of beef eat grass, back of beef drop cow pie on grass. ”

    One day, we will find a way to raise beef using hydroponics.

    Using only renewable energy and renewed water.

  14. @tsbhoa.p.jr
    “roomful o quitters.”

    One hopes.

    I always offer to help the members dispose of their leftover containers of unused temptation.

  15. @hawkeye
    “Soon after, the rascal stole nearly $750 from us (which was a wheelbarrow full of money there, like 4-5 months wages), plus several thousand from her mom”

    Predictable outcome for someone going into business with drug cartels? Or maybe trying to compete. Have you seen a picture of “the rascal” swinging from a bridge near the border?

    • No, but it would not surprise me if it happened. The info was for tomatoes, but who knows? He’s family, so, you know, but, well, you know…

  16. Just as a quick correction to an otherwise excellent article, modern hybrids and EV’s don’t use lead acid batteries except for the small 12v units used to run the lights, windows, door locks, etc. The batteries that run the motors for propulsion are either nickel metal hydride or lithium ion. (The defunct GM EV-1 used lead acid, and that didn’t work out too well.) These newer batteries have their own environmental costs, but don’t use lead.

  17. When I saw “Soylent Green” I thought “that’s silly, never gonna happen”, and now I say, “hmm, in 20 years? Umm, or say two weeks after the oceans die or there’s a dirty bomb or about 37 other plausible events. Everybody (old enough) remember drooling over Charlton Heston’s M-16?

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