How Many Times Should A Bullet Kill?

By: Andrew Carty

Last Wednesday, the House passed by roll call the “Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act” (SHARE).

Central to sustainability is the identification of bridges historically lost to us as humans. These bridges take the form of disconnects between production and consumption or in other words, source and utility.

Realizing the cyclical nature of our resources and operating within those bounds is sustainability.

The SHARE Act needs to learn that fact.

SHARE is billed as a ‘sportsman’s’ legislation. But I am a sportsman, and I can tell you that is just not the case. SHARE draws in sportsmen by promoting tradition and expansions of hunting lands and rights. But the act completely ignores the most current scientific findings in the field.

The hunting industry in the United States generates around $90 billion annually. This comes from sportsmen, and as a sportsman myself, I want my government care for the natural resources around which the industry revolves. As a citizen, I want my policymakers to also take into account my personal health and safety and my opinion. SHARE does none of this.

Besides flat-out limiting public comment on public land management, SHARE removes the authority of the EPA to limit hunting ammunition. Why would that even be important? I’ll tell you. Over 6,000 tons of lead is estimated to be released into the United States’ environment each year by bird hunters alone, and this does not even account for lead release from rifles and handguns used in game hunting. Current trends shine bright lights on the need for the EPA to place toxicology bans on lead hunting ammunition.

Lead is a heavy metal which has severe developmental and reproductive effects. It is a serious concern for wildlife populations. An estimated 20 million birds die each year from consumption of lead pellets dispersed by hunting activities. Furthermore, when hunters harvest big game species, the lead left in the carcasses after cleaning is responsible for huge predator and scavenger kills. The California Condor is a prime example of this, and as a result, the State of California is on the cutting-edge of complete restriction of all lead ammunition.

However, most recent studies do not focus on the wildlife impacts of hunting lead. They focus on the human health impacts. Lead has severe impacts on us as well. It is not just lead paint we should avoid. When a supersonic lead bullet strikes a game animal, the bullet actually fragments. Studies now show that lead molecules from the bullet travel farther into the meat than previously expected. Hunters cannot tell this by sight, and many are still uninformed even though warnings are just now being posted for pregnant women consuming wild-game meats.

There are many options for bullets which are far better than lead. Copper, bismuth, etc. are currently being used in a variety of bird pellets and shell rounds. While slightly more expensive, I can tell you non-lead rounds are not enough to break the bank, especially when it means preserving my game populations and my own health. As sportsmen, we are stewards. We have the opportunity to be sustainable in our practices. Lead is simply not sustainable. It is dangerous, destructive, and if we can duck hunt without it we can deer and dove hunt without it.


3 thoughts on “How Many Times Should A Bullet Kill?

  1. Andrew,

    I do not often think of sportsmen as stewards of nature, but in this case my mind has changed. I think you make a valid and important argument that sporting exists in part as an extension of valuing Earth’s natural resources, and hunters and conservationists alike can agree that keeping a healthy resource base is vital. It appears that the sporting industry is moving in the right direction with lead-based ammunition limits. Yet in regards to this new SHARE bill, I believe that the authors are wasting their opportunity to improve sporting law. By focusing on regulations limitations, possibly to protect against other laws targeting gun enforcement, they seem to be protecting their own political interests instead. Thank you for bringing this information to light.

  2. Vicki Mertesky, SPEA professor, knows a lot about this and would be a good resource for learning more about the effects of lead on wildlife. I’d be interested in seeing the cost breakdown for lead vs. other types of bullets. Good post!

  3. Wow! Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. I had not realized the full extent of the lead ammunition issue and this new act. You have piqued my interest and I must now go read more on this!

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