Lead ammo in NY still permitted; why hunters still need help

Bill Conners, Outdoors
Published 5:00 a.m. ET June 23, 2021 | Updated 6:10 a.m. ET June 23, 2021


Hunters and Recreational shooters breathed a sigh of relief last week when the state Legislature adjourned without imposing a partial ban on the use of traditional ammunition; traditional being lead bullets.

Migratory bird hunters and waterfowlers made the jump to non-lead ammo years ago because of Federal regulations. But in New York traditional ammo is still legal for upland bird hunting and for hunting both small and big game with rifles.

Bills introduced in both the Senate and Assembly this session would have amended New York’s Environmental Conservation Law to ban the use of lead ammo for hunting on all wildlife management areas, state forests, forest preserves, state parks or any other state-owned land that is open for hunting.

The second part of the amendment is more insidious. It would have banned the use of lead ammunition on any land area contributing surface water to the New York City water supply. “Lead ammunition” means any ammunition that contains one or more percent of lead by weight.

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As well-intentioned as such a ban may be, there are a couple of problems that it could create for the sporting community. Let’s put aside the angst it will cause for hunters and shooters because it bolsters their belief that the end game for some Legislators is to strip them of their right to hunt and shoot recreationally. That’s a discussion for another day.

Right now, depending on the ammo a shooter needs, he or she may not find it. The shelves in most sport shops, including the big box stores, are nearly devoid of ammo. Lead ammo is in short supply and non-lead ammunition — so-called “green ammo” — is expensive and also in short supply.

A number of factors are causing the problem. Record numbers of people are buying firearms, both handguns and long guns. This is apparent based on the number of background checks being done.

In 2020, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms reported there were a total of 39.7 million background checks performed. In the first three months of 2021, there were more than 12.4 million performed. If that pace is sustained, by year end we could see nearly 50 million — a 25% year-to-year jump. Not every check results in a gun purchase, but gun sales are exceptionally strong right now and show no signs of abating.

The ammunition shortage is a natural consequence of the growth in gun ownership. Retailers can’t keep any inventory on hand. As soon as they get a shipment in, it is sold out. The problem is that in many cases it is being bought up by people who may never use it. I’m having flashbacks to the toilet tissue shortage at…

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