In October, 2013, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a ban on lead hunting ammunition into law. The ban called for the complete phasing out of all lead shot and bullets for hunting by mid-2019 at the latest, with regulations and phased-in implementation to begin on July 1, 2015. The law is ostensibly intended to reduce the introduction of toxic materials into the environment and protect the state’s wildlife populations.
The first phase of the ban will begin this summer and requires non-lead ammo be used for all hunting on California’s state-run wildlife areas and reserves. Lead ammunition was already banned in the state’s condor areas, but beginning in July, no lead ammo will be permitted on California Department of Fish and Wildlife areas.
In July, 2016, the second phase will take effect. At that time, lead ammunition will not be permitted for use when hunting upland game birds except at licensed game bird clubs. Lead shotgun ammunition will also be banned for small game animals, furbearing animals, non-game mammals, non-game birds, and any wildlife taken for depredation control. Lead rifle ammunition will remain legal.
The third and final phase of the ban takes effect on July 1, 2019, when non-lead ammunition will be required for all hunting purposes within the state of California.
The ban is controversial, both within California and across the U.S. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, opposed to the ban, claims that the science backing a ban is incomplete and points out that Norway enacted a similar ban in 2005 but recently repealed it because there was not enough scientific evidence to support it. Other groups opposed to the ban claim that a shortage of non-lead ammunition and the higher prices associated with what there is will reduce the state’s hunting population and have a negative impact on wildlife management.
Critics also point out that a reduced number of hunters will cost the state revenue. Efforts to repeal the law, however have been unsuccessful so far.