As the numbing list of gun murders continues unabated (latest being the idiot who killed three members of city government in Ross Township, Pennsylvania), we appear to, once again, have become inured to the fact of gun deaths. There was a hue and cry like no other after Sandy Hook, but as Congress lost their mojo and no events big enough to stir the inertia have happened since, the whole topic of the NRA and sane gun control has quietly slipped from the Zeitgeist. At least until the next “big one” happens… then we’ll be up in arms (pun sadly intended), ready once more for battle. So while we’re in this unfortunate lull of apathy, what has the NRA been doing to feel useful and productive as the arbiter of American gun culture?
THEY’RE GOING AFTER ZOOS!
Yes, they’ve decided the stance of several organizations on the topic of lead bullets is anathema to their mission statement of “all guns, all bullets, all the time” and they’ve compiled an “enemies list” of those groups pushing for AB 711, California’s proposed statewide ban of lead ammunition. And on that list, prominently and with enthusiasm, are the famed San Diego Zoo and the Los Angeles Zoo, described in NRA-speak as ‘radical groups” and “government agencies” they’re out to ‘expose.’
Dear God, corral the giraffes and get the bongos in their bunkers; the NRA is on a rampage!
Really, NRA? This is where you feel you should place the resources of your best and brightest? Apparently so. With their current focus on keeping lead bullets from being limited in any way (because to NRA leadership, to limit firepower is to be unAmerican), they’re going after conservation and environmental groups who believe the lead in bullets used to shoot animals is a danger to both people and wildlife. From the National Park Service:
Most lead-core rifle bullets fragment into hundreds of tiny pieces when they strike animal tissue. Lead-tainted meat may become part of scavengers’ food supplies when any of the following occur: a wounded animal escapes a hunting attempt, an animal shot as a pest is not retrieved from the field, or when gutpiles remain on the landscape after a hunt. Over the past 3 decades, California condor recovery efforts have brought to light how this lead pathway in the ecosystem can threaten even the very survival of a species.
Numerous scientific studies have reached a consensus: lead poisoning is the biggest threat facing the successful recovery of the California condor… Scientific studies have documented that the primary source of this lead is from spent ammunition that remains in carcasses after they are shot.
Read the entire article to get the full picture of just how lead bullets do their damage… it ain’t pretty. But what about the impact on humans? Yep, the Park Service has something to say about that too, discussing the prevalence of lead bullet fragments in packaged venison and other wild meats, which is then fed not only to humans, but to domestic animals that humans will later ingest. The circle of life… mixed with just a little lead. The Park Service cited a study conducted in North Dakota…
… that examined ground venison packages that had been donated by hunters to food pantries. It found that 59% of the packages had lead fragments.
That’s slightly staggering, and for people who enjoy hunting and eating wild meat, I’d think that would be as alarming to them as it is to… well, zoos. But no; it turns out the NRA is not only NOT interested in those findings, they’ve got their own group, aptly named Huntfortruth.org (whose very on-the-nose mission statement is listed as “THE TRUTH BEHIND THE ASSAULT ON TRADITIONAL LEAD AMMUNITION”… all caps) to dispel such ‘misinformation.’
Hunt For Truth, with no small allegiance to the NRA, seems hardly the objective quantifier of truth related to any topic in the “guns vs. environment” debate, but for the sake of argument, let’s hear theirs. Published last week by the NRA on their “Institute for Legislation” site (naw… no affiliation there!), is a piece clumsily titled: “HuntForTruth.org Launches New Media-Rich Website Designed to Combat the Misleading Campaign to Ban Lead Ammunition Throughout the U.S.” Here’s a glimpse of their thesis:
Self-proclaimed environmental organizations are pushing to prohibit the use of traditional lead ammunition in hunting and recreational shooting. These radical groups are now going so far as to claim that eating wild game taken with lead ammunition is a serious health risk to hunters and their families. [... ]
Lead ammunition ban proposals are already in the works in multiple states across the country. All hunters and recreational shooters need to learn the real truth behind the anti-lead ammunition proponents’ agenda to ban lead ammunition, not only in battleground states like California, but everywhere in the United States. Anti-lead ammunition groups will not rest until all lead ammunition, and ultimately hunting, is banned. This is their “Get The Lead Out” campaign. [Emphasis added.]
OK, first of all, they’ve thrown in the typical “sky is falling” hyperbole about ‘radical groups’ and ‘banning all hunting,’ a weary fear-mongering trope similar to the “THEY WILL CONFISCATE ALL OUR GUNS” hysteria (an item included in our list of the Top 10 Thinks Gun Lovers DON’T Need To Fear), but one has to ask: why so possessive of lead? Is there really no other way to have fun with hunting? I suspect it’s less about lead and more about not wanting to be told they can’t use lead. Because, God forbid, the NRA leadership ever viewed anything from the perspective of the “greatest good” versus NRA/gun-lovers self-satisfaction.
But, what, you may ask at this point, does any of this have to do with zoos? Stay with me: Christina Wilkie at The Huffington Post reports that, as part of their “keep the lead in” campaign, they’ve compiled one of their infamous “enemies list” of people and organizations at odds with their goal. That’s where those damn animal-conserving, species-protecting, environmental-preserving, flamingly ’radical’ zoos come in:
In order to rally its members to oppose the lead regulation, the NRA described a conspiracy theory involving crooked scientists, phony research, and a shadowy network of nonprofits, zoos and government agencies all conspiring to ban hunting.
According to the NRA, an “activist portion of the scientific community” has formed “a highly organized network of like minded researchers with an agenda to ban lead ammunition.” In order to thwart this looming threat, “Hunt for Truth will expose the researchers associated with ‘faulty science’ critical of lead ammunition,” the gun lobby says.
Scientists aren’t the NRA’s only new targets. Nonprofits like the San Diego Zoo and the California Condor Recovery Team are also on the enemies list. The NRA claims these groups “have considerable influence over many legislators and regulators,” which they use to “capture” the regulatory agencies and bureaucrats responsible for lead ammunition restrictions.
“Under this capture theory, NGO’s, legislators, regulatory agencies and researchers work in concert to implement policies and regulations to ban traditional ammunition,” the NRA alleges. [... ]
Four government agencies were also singled out: the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the California Department of Fish and Game, the Los Angeles Zoo and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. [Emphasis added.]
Yes… some dastardly folks on that ‘enemies list,’ aren’t there? Of course, also included on their list is the ‘ominously’ titled Center for Biological Diversity, the group behind the “Get the Lead Out” campaign. But when a group devoted to biology makes a statement like this:
In the United States, an estimated 3,000 tons of lead are shot into the environment by hunting every year, another 80,000 tons are released at shooting ranges, and 4,000 tons are lost in ponds and streams as fishing lures and sinkers — while as many as 20 million birds and other animals die each year from subsequent lead poisoning.
… one has to wonder why even the NRA and its members aren’t interested in finding an alternative substance with which to make bullets, one that isn’t as toxic and doesn’t have quite the negative ripple effect. But that is like asking why the NRA isn’t interested in protecting their children too when it comes to safer, saner gun control laws. There is no true logic to be found; it’s just the same knee-jerk, circle-the-wagons paranoia that pervades any discussion of limiting, changing, adapting, adjusting, or improving anything related to GUNS.
But you decide. Read all the attached pieces, see what you think. And while you’re at it, one last thing: can you think of any good reason why the HuntForTruth.org people would choose this particular image for their campaign against banning lead bullets? I get it… a boxer… ‘the gloves come off”… sure… that explains it, right? But given the controversial lack of black membership in this organization, the choice seems… odd… somehow coded. But then again, maybe I’m as suspect of the NRA and their cronies as they’d likely be of me. You decide.