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September 9, 2013
Viewpoints: Why labor should be against bill to ban lead shot

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(Sept. 9 -- By Mark Gagliardi, Special to The Bee)

I have long been an advocate for my union brothers and sisters, as well as an active member of the hunting and sport shooting community. I serve as the event chairman for a national nonprofit that raises money for leukemia and lymphoma research through sport shooting events, and I am currently a trustee with the Central Labor Council of Contra Costa County. I have great concerns with Assembly Bill 711, by Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, which will ban traditional lead ammunition, and the devastating impact that it will have both on hunters and sport shooters and working men and women.

AB 711 amounts to a ban on hunting in California. Being involved in sport shooting for as long as I have, I can tell you that hunters and sport shooters largely prefer using traditional lead ammunition; in fact, it accounts for about 95 percent of all ammunition sold in California. While those of us that participate in these activities should be able to freely choose what ammunition components we prefer, the fact is that alternative metal ammunition, like bronze and copper, is at least three times more expensive and in extremely limited supply. However, the biggest issue is that the federal government classifies most non-lead bullets as "armor piercing" and requires special permission to manufacture or sell. No one on either side of this ammunition debate argues the fact that these permissions are simply not being granted; hence the conclusion by those opposing AB 711 that it cripples long rifle hunting in California.

An estimated 65 percent of all union households hunt, fish or enjoy outdoor recreational activities. Forcing them to buy ammunition at three and four times the price they pay today places a huge limit on their spending ability. This will either force people to buy their ammo in Nevada or stop hunting all together. This mandatory ban will cost California millions in funding due to decreased purchases. The reason for the decrease is simple: Sales of ammunition will almost certainly go down, and therefore, the excise tax funding California receives from these purchases will be cut and those funds go primarily to fund conservation efforts. It is an indisputable fact that hunters and sport shooters contribute tens of millions of dollars each year directly into California's environmental preservation and habitat conservation.

Additionally, many workers that produce traditional lead ammunition are covered by a union contract. Mandating a traditional lead ammunition ban will negatively impact thousands of working people who earn a living wage. They are dependent on California hunters and sport shooters as one of their top consumers of ammunition each year. In a somewhat ironic twist - given that a generally pro-labor legislator sponsored this bill - the primary beneficiary of this bill, if it passes, is a nonunion ammunition company.

Supporters of this bill, such as animal rights advocacy groups, are blinded to the detrimental impact AB 711 will have on California by their zealous mission to ban hunting. But as I wrote above, this bill doesn't just hurt hunters. Passage of this legislation will hurt union jobs, the funding California receives for conservation, and working families that will once again see their recreational choices cut by a Legislature trying to appease an out-of-touch special interest group.

I sincerely hope that Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature will reel this bad bill back in. Instead, they need to bring hunting organizations, sport shooters, labor, environmental groups and other stakeholders together and work toward a more reasonable approach to this issue: such as the very successful voluntary efforts currently working in Arizona. AB 711 is not the right solution.

Mark Gagliardi, a trustee for the Contra Costa Central Labor Council, lives in Oakley.

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