By Seamus McAfee
A bill that’s described as supporting hunting and gun rights is not only bad for the animals; it’s even poisoning the hunters!
The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act (H.R. 4089) would allow people to keep using lead ammunition and tackle when hunting and fishing.
But conservationists say that lead poisoning kills 10 million to 20 million birds every year, and hunters who eat what they hunt have also been shown to have higher levels of lead in their bloodstreams.
“This bill should be renamed the Sportsmen’s Death Knell Act,” the Center of Biological Diversity declared in a press release. “It flies in the face of traditional American hunting values to conserve — not needlessly kill — our game.”
This bill is not only bad for the animals; it’s even poisoning the hunters!
The bill would also require public land managers to support hunting and fishing on their lands, and allow hunters who legally bag polar bears in Canada to bring their trophies home. Land managers would only be allowed to restrict hunting when it would threaten national security or public safety, and they would be required to submit a report to Congress explaining their rationale.
H.R. 4809 easily passed the House on April 18 with a vote of 274-146, and advances to the Senate, where its future is uncertain. Its supporters mark the bill’s passage in the house as a victory for gun rights and hunters and fishermen.
Since the National Rifle Association (NRA) is backing the bill, opponents believe that its supporters in Congress are less concerned with hunting rights and more concerned with attempting to appeal to the lobbying group in an election year.
“House Republicans keep pounding out their grim drumbeat on behalf of corporate interests with this assault on environmental protections,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This bill actually jeopardizes the health of hunters and prevents the federal government from acting to prevent the needless lead poisoning of our wildlife.”
Not all hunting groups are supporting the bill. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers said it believes H.R. 4809l would have immense negative consequences for hunters and conservationists. Other hunters have also publicly come out against the NRA’s record of conservation.
“For hunters like me, hunting isn’t ultimately about the gun,” said Lily Raff McCaulou in a New York Times article. “It’s about wildlife and the land that sustains it.”
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Disagree with H.R. 4089? You can contact the bill’s main supporters, Congressmen Jeff Miller, Doc Hastings, and Rob Bishop at their respective websites, and let them know your thoughts. The Center for Biological Diversity is also collecting petition signatures in opposition of the bill.
Regardless of the outcome of the bill, you can still work against any potential harm if may cause. If you hunt, try exploring alternatives to lead ammunition. Effective, nontoxic alternatives are widely available and can be comparable in price to lead.