Important legislation requiring the use of non-lead ammunition for hunting today passed the California State Senate by a wide margin. Assembly Bill 711, authored by Assemblymembers Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) and Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), was approved by a vote of 23 to 15. The bill was managed on the Senate floor by Senator Ted W. Lieu (D-Torrance). “Lead is a toxin that is bad for human health and the environment, and lead ammunition exposes humans and other animals to this life-threatening poison,” said AB 711 author Assemblymember Anthony Rendon. “There is simply no reason to continue using lead ammunition in hunting, and today’s Senate vote gives me great hope that we can eradicate this highly toxic element from our environment.”
Eliminating lead ammunition is already a priority for national agencies, and there are affordable, safer alternatives available and in use by some hunters across the country.
“The Centers for Disease Control and leading scientists from around the country agree that there is no safe level of lead exposure for humans,” said Dr. Pan, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee. “As a pediatrician, I am proud to coauthor AB 711 to phase out use of lead ammunition and reduce lead in our environment.”
In addition to posing a danger to human health, lead ammunition still threatens the California Condor, Golden Eagle and other protected species. One in five free-flying condors has ingested such significant levels of lead from these sources that they are at risk of dying from lead poisoning. In addition, more than 130 other wildlife species are at risk of poisoning by spent lead ammunition left behind by hunters.
Nationally-renowned scientists in the field of lead poisoning from across the country released a study in March showing that lead-based ammunition is likely the greatest, largely unregulated, source of lead knowingly discharged into the environment in the United States.
“This vote shows that the time has come for California to take this simple step to protect birds and other wildlife from this source of lead in the environment,” said Dan Taylor, Audubon California’s director of public policy. “Using lead ammunition just doesn’t make sense given what we now know about the dangers it presents to both birds and people.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1991 began to require the use of non-lead shot like steel and copper for hunting ducks and geese across the United States and the National Park Service in 2009 announced the goal of eliminating the use of lead ammunition.
“By passing this bill, the California State Senate has voted to protect Californians and our wildlife from the toxic effects of lead,” said Kimberley Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife California program director. “With safer alternatives widely available, it is clear there is no reason to continue poisoning ourselves or our environment.”
There are already manufacturers of non-lead ammunition in the state of California, and thousands and thousands of hunters in California already use non-lead ammunition for hunting big game in condor country and waterfowl hunting statewide.
“Lead poisoning from ammunition takes an extreme and painful toll on animals, and threatens the integrity of our environment,” said Jennifer Fearing, California senior state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “Thanks to the humane leadership of our state legislature, California is one step closer to safeguarding its citizens and wildlife from this dangerous toxin.”
The Los Angeles Times, the Sacramento Bee, the San Jose Mercury News, the Riverside Press Enterprise, the Fresno Bee and the Monterey County Herald have editorialized in favor of AB 711.
The final version of the bill will be voted on in the California State Assembly “on concurrence” next week, where the original bill passed by a vote of 44-21.
(photo of juvenile Cooper’s Hawk by Alan Vernon)