Lead ammo ban lifted in Norway - evidence wins in leading decision

The use of lead in ammunition has been an issue of contention for some time now, not just in Australia, but across Europe and the United States. Arguments surrounding the effects of lead-based bullets on the environment have long been touted by anti-hunting groups as a way to mandate a blanket ban on all forms of hunting. This is despite lead being one of the most effective metals to ensure the humane destruction of pest animals and game animals alike. A recent decision by a European parliament, however, has put the case for lead-based bullets back on the agenda, with a 10-year ban on the use of lead shot and projectiles for hunting outside of wetlands overturned earlier this year.

On February 3, the Norwegian Parliament voted to reintroduce lead shot for hunting on all lands outside of wetlands following a majority of 79 votes cast in support of the decision. Only 16 votes were recorded against the decision.

Overturning the ban was heralded as a great success by the World Forum on Shooting Activities (WFSA), as it lifted policy that was clearly based on political interests and emotional messages rather than scientific evidence.

The WFSA - an international association consisting of more than 40 major hunting, sports shooting and firearms industry groups that has official United Nations Non-Governmental Organisation status - shared the news with member groups, including the SSAA. “The Norwegian Government will now include the decision taken by Parliament in a regulation that allows hunters to return [to] using lead shot ammunition over non-wetland, starting from the hunting season of the current year,” wrote WFSA secretariat HQ. “This is a great success achieved by the Norwegian Associations that lifted a ban that was introduced in 2005 on the basis of political interests and emotional messages addressed to the public opinion rather than on scientific basis.”

The Norwegian Hunting Association and Norway’s Weapons Council have been credited with the landmark policy change after successfully demonstrating to members of parliament that lead is a suitable material for hunting ammunition. Following the announcement, the WFSA said that it is expected that other countries with undue limitations on the use of lead in ammunition should move in the same direction as Norway.

The SSAA has been heavily involved in discussions surrounding lead use and has co-authored a series of papers about this issue. Previous SSAA National President and current SSAA International Representative Bob Green assisted with the most recent publication in 2007, with the paper ‘Workshop on Shooting Ranges: Lead Reclamation, Sound Attenuation, Backstop Construction’ showing that lead is one of the most practical and cost-effective materials for the production of projectiles. The paper, which was presented in Palermo, Italy, in October 2007, included the SSAA’s view that we can manage lead and its effect on the environment by choosing appropriate range sites and properly constructing, maintaining and managing these sites. The WFSA and SSAA continue to actively monitor and oppose any unscientifically based restrictions and bans in many countries throughout the world.

While a ban on the use of lead-based ammunition in wetlands remains in place, the decision in Norway shows that the jury is still out regarding the real effect lead-based bullets may have on the environment. The SSAA congratulates the Norwegian Parliament for acknowledging that facts were overlooked in its original rulings, and for recognising the need to reverse the decision. As always, the SSAA encourages legislators to base decisions on scientific evidence and facts, rather than emotion, and will continue to work with the WFSA to research any issues that affect sporting shooters and hunters around the world.

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