Vector / illustration of a man that is hunting flying euros.
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By Larry Keane

Shotguns have a deeply rooted history in Europe among sportsmen, farmers and ranchers. Historically these firearms have used traditional components in their loadings that includes lead shot. Anti-hunting groups in Europe and the U.S. have increasingly blamed traditional ammunition for all sorts of evils, with zero evidence that the use has had an impact on human health, the environment or wildlife populations.


This politically motivated activism has prompted the European Commission (EC) to request the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to prepare a restriction of lead shot over wetlands. The resulting draft currently under consideration by the EC restricting traditional ammunition in wetlands has left many representatives of shooters, hunters and member states baffled at the broad, irrational proposal.

No Evidence and Unenforceable

Apart from the fact that there is no evidence supporting a ban on the use or possession of traditional ammunition in Europe, the proposal is riddled with unenforceable, sweeping rules that hold broad implications for shooters and hunters in the EU. One of the most glaring problems with the proposal is its use of Ramsar to regulate a wetland by the definition of “areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters.”


Using Ramsar as a basis for categorization is evident of the intent on the ban, to eliminate hunting and shooting in the EU, not to protect the environment. Wetlands are diverse ecosystems with very specific conditions to remain categorized, not a political tool to impose restrictions. Expanding the definition of wetland to meet practically all conditions of the outdoors severely limits hunters. Under the definition, for example, water sitting in tire tracks after recent rainfall qualifies as a wetland.

Compounding the problem is the designated one-hundred-meter buffer zone around this poorly defined wetland. As the rule prohibits hunters from even possessing traditional ammunition in their pack or pocket when traversing through a wetland and corresponding buffer zone, compliance would be nearly impossible.

If a sportsman were shooting clay pigeons and he unknowingly walked through a buffer zone with traditional ammunition in his pocket, he would be in violation of this new rule. Enforcing this new restriction would be very onerous and convoluted as it leaves so much to interpretation and offers no legal certainty.

Presumption of Guilt

The current draft presumes that hunters and shooters are noncomplying and places the burden of proof on the individual. The presumption of innocence is protected for individuals under the European Convention on Human Rights. Expanding the scope outside of the individual, member states should also be troubled, as the regulation currently does not have any exemption for military and law enforcement.

This ban on traditional lead shot in wetlands can spell big trouble for not only hunters, but also for conservationists and law enforcement branches of member states, creating confusion for all parties involved. This issue is continuing to develop and there are many outcomes leaving those with vested interest on the edge of their seats.

Delayed for Now

While a vote was expected earlier this month, the Czech Republic has intervened and asked the EC to stop voting on the Europe-wide ban based on the definition of wetlands in the current draft. The months-long process is considered finished without result and negotiators now anticipate a new vote to take place in September.

If the EC approves the draft, it then heads to the European Parliament, where sportsmen and women face an uphill battle against this irrational and harmful proposal.


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. Why try again and again to explain something to Gun Control zealots when the bottom line is Gun Control is rooted in racism and genocide? That makes Gun Control a racist and nazi based agenda. Surely Europe has not forgot what happened to those who were rounded up, beaten, separated from their families, starved, gassed, piled up like garbage and pushed naked into mass graves, etc.
    Until Gun Control is seen for what it is this tit for tat and wasting time playing games with scumbag gun grabbers will continue. Some people may enjoy that, I don’t.

    • You know what pisses me off about it the most? There is literally not a single instance in history where that hasn’t occurred. Not one. Just varying degrees of it. So it’s not like we’re hurting for examples. But people just don’t see it.

  2. Wait, there were still guns in Europe? i mean other than the illegal fully automatic AKs of the Hajis, who are above the law, of course. Who knew.

  3. Years ago when it was legal in the US, I hunted waterfowl with 3″ #2 lead shot. It was great! Tighter patterns at longer ranges equaled many more birds for the Ches. Bay retriever to “go get ’em boy”, and more tasty meat for the freezer (even a few mallard, teal, wood duck, and goose bands for my collection on my call lanyards). I still remember like it was yesterday the year that the lead shot waterfowl ban was enacted. The only alternative was steel at the time, and we all know (especially back then as it had no buffering material mixed in the load) that patterns became more irregular and effective range was nearly cut in half. While I despised the change at the time, at least it had well defined wetlands and was not ambiguous like the EU proposed ban. Designated wetlands were always wetlands, and temporary wet spots never counted. While I did not like the new law, at least it was fairly easy to comply. Eventually bismuth shot came out (double the already higher price for steel shot) and when in a buffered load I could reach back out nearly as far as I could with good old lead. Now there are many alternatives (none cheap as lead, but some are fairly affordable ranging to just too expensive to justify using).

    IF the US law made a positive change in the environment (I have not seen coaberated scientific studies to show a positive change and it has been enough years to have an effect if it was going to, and the data should be available by now), then I am happy to do my part to protect wetlands from dangerous levels of lead.

    I feel for the EU shooters and hunters, because as I read the proposed ban, it will make life very complicated for all shooters, and early make it impossible to own or use any lead shot or handgun/rifle ammo. The poor europeans will have to switch all their ammo to non-lead pistol and rifle rounds, and change over shotgun shells to more expensive lead free alternatives. While the whole thing stinks, if the proposal better defined wetlands, and got rid of the 100 meter DMZ, it could be complied with by all over there by purchasing much more expensive ammo for all their guns (some rifle and pistol rounds that are lead free are no where near as effective at their core designed purpose). What about the countries there that only allow deer hunting with buckshot or slugs? Are people going to have to switch to solid copper or bronze sabot slugs and bismuth buckshot? I predict more wounded deer, and longer time between the impact of the shot and the death of the animal (significantly increasing “suffer time” and post shot travel leading to increased numbers of “lost” deer that were wounded by a marginal hit). I am NOT okay with that. I stopped counting after I killed my 100th deer, and I stand very firm I my position that when I decide to put one down (regardless of weapon), I want it to be dead within minutes at the most and prefer instant kills for humane reasons. Just because it is going to help fill my freezer with meat does not mean in any way that I want the animal to feel pain (much less even know that it was shot and killed- dead before it realizes it has been shot).

    Hang in there european hunting brothers and sisters. There is hope that they may use logic to change this regulation for the better before it is enacted. Good luck!

  4. Maybe if an activity the left enjoyed was attacked they would get a taste of their own medicine. Oh well, when Europe is disarmed and subjugated to Islam we can explain why to them, right before they are herded off.

  5. Are we talking about EU waterfowl hunting regs starting to look like 1991 US regs, but with stricter restrictions on possession of shot shells?

    If there’s no scientific basis for the ban, shouldn’t we be complaining about the nearly 30 year old US ban?

    • Probably because it isn’t true that there is NO evidence. There are studies to support a ban, as well as studies that say it is al hooey. When a legislative body makes a determination of fact in adopting a regulation or law, the “rational basis” test applies, and as long as the law has a rational basis, it stands up to judicial review.

      The case against pellets is stronger than against bullets, though, and the California Condor, on the verge of extinction from lead poisoning (despite evidence that the lead was environmental and not bird shot) has had a solid rebound. California has since expanded the lead ban, in stages, to pistol and rifle ammunition, a ban that will apply even on dedicated shooting ranges (where the worst of the lead exposure is from primers, not bullets, but that is an argument that did not hold sway). There is a substantial basis on which to argue that the bullet ban is more political than scientific, and is intended to make target shooting and hunting too expensive for the average Joe. To say nothing of the fact that there are thousands of shooters with thousands or tens of thousands of leaded rounds that will one day be illegal to fire in this State. I assume I am in the vast majority of shooters who have few (or no) nonleaded rounds. I probably have less than 40. Copper bullets are not cheap, often more that a buck a shot.

      • “Copper bullets are not cheap, often more that a buck a shot.”

        That’s a feature, not a bug, from their perspective. Jacking up the cost of shooting means less of it will occur, and that meshes nicely with their politics.

        The thing about pellets and birds has some merit in it – Avian gullets are *highly* acidic, so any pellets they ingest will partially dissolve in their gut acids. Those same acids are why birds don’t get sick from the rotted carrion they enjoy so much. The acidified lead gets in their tissues.

        Pellets (and bullets) on the ground are for all practical purposes, not a problem, contamination-wise. Lead exposed to atmospheric oxygen quickly oxidizes the surface, effectively ‘sealing in’ the heavy metal, making it inert, toxin-wise. But Leftists have to have something to complain about, so they ya go…

  6. Except for a few of the Eastern and South Eastern European countries who are rebelling against all the EU regulations. The rest of Europe is lost to Progressive Dystopia. Even England has bowed to Progressiveism for the most part. The only difference is they want to destroy their country on their own terms.

  7. The primary reason for lead bans worldwide is because lead makes it easy to manufacture your own projectiles at home with minimal equipment.

    • Doubtful. Copper jacketed ammunition is plentiful and relatively inexpensive. Meanwhile, lead is becoming more and more scarce, at least in the US, where wheel weights have transitioned to steel (much to the chagrin of not just shooters but tire mechanics who can’t stand the steel weights).

      • Plenty of lead can be had for free in the foreseeable future via vehicle storage battery recycling.

        And now that we are officially firing up rare earth refineries to give a middle finger to China, lead is a common part of the rare earth matrix refined, so there’s another source that can be exploited.

        And Mexico will be happy to sell us all we want as well, from their gold, silver, and copper mining operations. Canada as well…

  8. When I lived and hunted in Germany they enacted a lead bullet ban on Federal hunting ground. “Blei Frei” or lead free bullets were mandated, very few German hunters followed the rules. The copper bullets would pass through Deer like FMJ and do very little damage, ensuring many hours with dogs trying track down wounded game. German hunters would carry shell casings from the lead free rounds and load up with lead bullets.

    All I could think of was how many trillions of rounds of lead bullets were fired in Europe over two World Wars and all the wars the preceded them. Now we are worried about 2 or 3 lead bullets from a hunter? If lead bullets were that toxic the entire continent would be dead.

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