Game wardens urge Brown to veto lead ammo ban

Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to sign or veto any of the major gun-control bills that the Legislature sent to him in the final days of its session, and so advocates on both sides of the debate are pressuring him to see things their way.

ammoFor example, the California Fish and Game Wardens’ Association, representing current and retired sworn state game wardens, sent a letter to the governor Wednesday urging him to veto AB 711, which would ban the use of lead ammunition in hunting by mid-2019.

“Our California Wardens are the state’s environmental police, teachers of conservation, protectors of fish and wildlife, and a premiere law enforcement presence for public safety and disaster relief,” the association’s officers and board wrote to Brown. “California Game Wardens are on the front line enforcing the ban on lead ammunition for most hunting in condor range. But there is insufficient data to justify such a drastic action across the entire state.”

In taking this position, the wardens are breaking with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, which had supported AB 711.

Environmentalists say the bill – authored by Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-South Gate, protects California condors, eagles and other wildlife from lead poisoning. “There’s no reason to keep putting toxic lead into the food chain or risking human health when there are nontoxic bullets already on the market and in use by hunters,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate from the Center for Biological Diversity.

But the vast majority of ammunition used today contains lead, and opponents of the bill say the environmental argument is a smoke-screen. The California Association of Firearms Retailers has noted there isn’t much non-lead ammunition on the market, because federal authorities have determined that it meets the definition of armor-piercing ammunition, which is banned. Unless that’s resolved, the group said, there would be little or no legal ammunition for hunting.

Brown has until Oct. 13 to sign or veto this session’s bills.

This bill and SB 374 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento – which would add all semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines to the state’s list of banned assault weapons – are probably the most controversial gun-related bills sent to Brown’s desk this year. Others include:

    SB 299 by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord – would require gun owners to report a gun theft or loss to police within seven days of knowing about it
    SB 475 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco – would essentially ban gun shows at the Cow Palace by requiring approval from San Francisco and San Mateo supervisors for such shows
    SB 567 by Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara – would update the definition of an illegal shotgun to include a shotgun with a revolving cylinder and a rifled bore
    SB 683 by Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego – would require owners of long guns to earn safety certificates like those already required of handgun owners
    SB 755 by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Vacaville – would expand list of convicts who can’t legally own guns to include those with multiple drug or alcohol crimes, street gang members and others
    AB 48 by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley – would ban conversion kits that allow people to turn regular magazines into high-capacity magazines
    AB 169 by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento – would tighten exemptions to the law prohibiting purchase of handguns that haven’t been tested and deemed safe by the state
    AB 180 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland – would give Oakland an exemption from state pre-emption so it can pass its own stricter gun registration or licensing statutes
    AB 231 by Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco – would make it a crime to leave a loaded firearm somewhere a child is likely to be able to get it without permission
    AB 1131 by Skinner – would extend from six months to five years the prohibition from owning firearms for those who’ve described a credible violent threat to a psychotherapist

Bills that DID NOT make it to Brown’s desk include:

    SB 47 by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco – would have banned “bullet buttonsthat allow fast swapping of rifle magazines
    SB 53 by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles – would have required background checks for ammunition purchases
    SB 293 by DeSaulnier – would have required all newly made or imported handguns in California be “smart guns” personalized so only their owners can fire them, effective 18 months after such guns go on the market and meet certain performance standards
    SB 396 by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley – would have forced Californians to give up all ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, no matter when they were bought

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    Ha! Game wardens, what do they know?

    The remaining liberal loony bills on Brown’s desk should be swept into the dustbin of history.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Only cowboys and PIs should be allowed to use lead bullets