It seemed to be over last year, but when it comes to the EU, it's never really over: with a letter sent back in July but kept secret only until recently, the European Commission asked the European Chemicals Agency to prepare a restriction proposal that would ban all lead-based ammunition for all civilian uses, and even lead fishing tackles!
Yup, they're at it again: back in September 2017, and then again in November 2018 we told you about the European Commission's attempt to act through ECHA – the European Chemicals Agency – in order to impose a full ban on the civilian use of lead-based ammunition, no longer limited to hunting in wetlands as previously stated but even extended to sport shooting and in all environments, including shooting ranges.
But as we know, when it comes to come for the rights of gun owners, the EU likes to play it on the long run, hoping to take our community by surprise. Ignoring the indications of international environmental protection organizations such as IUCN about the negligible toxicity of lead-based ammunition, and even the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment's 2015 research that highlighted the dangers of dust and fume emissions from ammunition made from materials other than lead, on July 16th the European Commission sent a letter to the director of ECHA asking for suggestion to restrict all civilian uses of lead-based ammunition and even lead fishing tackles!
What threat are we facing?
The alarm was first raised by FACE with a public announcement on August 28th. The original letter from the European Commission to the director of ECHA is available for download from the official ECHA website – just in case you're wondering whether it's just fake news – as well as straight from our website should it be removed from ECHA's platform.
As made very clear by the text of the letter, the scope this time is a full-out ban on the use of all lead-based ammunition for both hunting in all terrains and sport shooting in all conditions.
Back in September 2017 we did provide an outlook of what the backlash on our world would be, should such a ban be passed, but anybody could always do with a refresher:
- Loss of accuracy and reliability on firearms: most rifles, carbines and handguns currently available feature twist rates that are calculated to provide optimum stabilization to rounds that are manufactured out of lead or offer a similar bullet weight. Same goes for the calculations on which the manufacturing of key components is based to provide a lengthy service life.
Mandating the use of more dense, heavier materials will screw up all those complex calculations, and make those guns much less accurate and more prone to wear and tear.
- Impossibility to use popular small-caliber rounds such as .22 Long Rifle, which due to their dimensions are in most cases – if not always – available only in lead round nose variants.
- Mandatory phasing out of vintage firearms: there's a reason why CIP proof houses test barrels to up to 1630 BAR in pressure and mark the barrels that pass those tests with a specific marking (a lily flower): other-than-lead ammunition in general, and steel ammunition specifically, is known to develop much higher pressures than lead-based ammunition in the same caliber.
A ban on lead-based ammunition would make many firearms unsafe, and thus impossible to use. And this doesn't "just" include your grandpa's old lever-action carbine or hunting shotgun, but many vintage rifles and carbines dating back to the world wars. True collector's pieces would be turned to nothing more than very expensive paperweights overnight, just as if they had all been permanently deactivated.
- Increase in costs: hunters and sport shooters would have to face additional costs to purchase new firearms that would be safe to use with other-than-lead ammunition – which is often significantly more expensive than lead ammunition. Manufacturers would have to research and industrialize to manufacture ammunition in materials other than lead, offering the same density and wear factor as lead; the cost of research and industrial gear-up would fall on the end user on the brief-to-mid-term.
In those jurisdictions where restrictions on the use of lead-based ammunition for hunting were imposed in the past, the most direct effect was a sharp fall in the number of active hunters, as many could not afford the additional expenses to adapt to the use of non-lead ammo. With sport shooters being impacted by such a ban, results would be even more disastrous.
Why are they doing it?
Animal welfare and protection of the environment are of course the usual excuse – and yet scientific evidence seems to contradict ECHA about the danger posed by lead-based ammunition and fishing tackle, so much so that recently the United Kingdom refused to implement such a total lead ammo ban. Facade and excuses aside, it's not hard to see how this may be just an attempt to introduce gun control in disguise.
After all, the efforts of the European gun owners community – represented by organizations such as Firearms United – made sure that the European Commission failed to introduce draconian gun bans with the new 2017/853 European Firearms Directive.
The Commission still has to recover from such a staggering political defeat, and as of today, September 2019, as Swedish press reports, twenty EU Member States out of twenty-seven still have to implement the new European Firearms Directive, totally or partially. As such, giving it another shot with a review of the directive is basically impossible on the short term.
In order to keep up the pace with their disarmament plans, the European élites will thus resort to alternative ways, such as measures that would make it more expensive for hunters and shooters to keep practicing their sports and hobbies, forcing many of them to give them up altogether.
In order to avoid the "hiccups" experienced by the European firearms directive, this time they decided not to go through the European Parliament – which, being the only EU institution to be elected by the citizens of the Member States, is also at least partially influenced in its decisions by the will of said citizens – but through a bureaucratic and "scientific" body such as ECHA, which answers only to the European Commission and is by no means bound to listen to the requests and the opinion of the peoples of Europe.
With luck, organizations such as FACE and AFEMS – the Association of European Manufacturers of Sporting Ammunition – are among the consulting bodies that will have their say on this disgraceful proposal.
As usual, it's worth reminding that the procedure will be lengthy and there is no cause for immediate panic. Our community will however need to remain vigilant on the matter, and ready to respond promptly as one to any call for action tied to this topic that may be raised in the coming weeks and months.
GUNSweek.com will of course keep the European hunters and shooters community posted about the evolution of this threat.
Mala tempora currunt...