What do the re-establishment of California's tule elk, conservation of salmon and the protection and maintenance of more than 285,000 acres of wildlife habitat have to do with Assemblyman Anthony Rendon's bill, AB 711 that would ban traditional lead ammunition? Sadly, one of the unintended consequences of Rendon's bill will likely be a huge reduction in California's share of federal conservation and wildlife restoration funding.
Here's how: California hunters and sport shooters are subject to an 11 percent excise tax paid on the sale of ammunition under the provisions of the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937.
California is among the top five states in the nation, receiving more than $14.1 million this year in federal money collected in state for wildlife restoration.
According to the industry, about 95 percent of the ammunition sold currently is traditional lead, 4 percent being steel-shot used for duck hunting and 1 percent made from alternative metals. AB 711, recently supported in an editorial by The Bee, ("Time to get the lead out of gun ammo and wildlife"; May 7) fails to consider that federal law classifies the alternative non-lead ammunitions as "armor piercing."
This alternative metal ammunition is illegal to import, make or sell unless the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives grants an exemption on the basis that it is intended for a sporting purpose. That would normally not be a major concern, except that ATF already has approximately 20 pending manufacturers' exemption requests on their desk that date back years.
Because of this bottleneck and the armor-piercing classification of alternative metal ammunition, Rendon's bill would ban nearly all ammunition used by target shooters, hunters and other shooting sports enthusiasts, resulting in a reduction in the wildlife restoration funds California receives.
The Bee argued that switching from traditional lead shot pellets to steel-shot for duck hunting was relatively easy. That is really an apples-to-oranges comparison. The difference in that instance was that steel was a readily available substitute and not subject to the armor piercing classification given to alternative metal ammunition.
The current system strikes a sensible balance among sport shooters, conservationists and hunters. If the bill's supporters are serious in claiming they want to protect wildlife, they should look to organizations like the American Bird Conservancy which is actively urging ATF to approve these pending requests, while supporting a voluntary shift to alternative ammunitions. Until then, those truly interested in conservation, and protecting and growing our wildlife resources should oppose AB 711.
Don Giottonini is president of Valley Lumber and Supply, and president of the Sacramento Chapter of the Safari Club International.