Trump Reverses Gun Regulation Implemented on Obama's Last Day

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will allow lead ammunition for hunting again

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke / Getty
March 5, 2017

The Trump administration on Thursday reversed a gun regulation that was implemented on the very last day of the Obama administration.

Newly sworn-in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke withdrew an order banning the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on certain federal lands issued by the previous head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Jan. 19, 2017.

"It's time to put ammunition back where it belongs; in the hands of hunters," Zinke said in a release.

The order had come under criticism from gun groups for its sweeping impact, speedy implementation, and lack of input from industry groups and hunters.

"This was a reckless, unilateral overreach that would have devastated the sportsmen's community," Chris Cox, head of the National Rifle Association's lobbying arm, said in a statement. "The Obama administration failed to consult with state fish and wildlife agencies or national angling and hunting organizations in issuing this order. This was not a decision based on sound scientific evidence—it was a last second attack on traditional ammunition and our hunting heritage."

Former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe issued the directive banning lead ammunition because, he maintained, the widely used ammunition is dangerous to animals. "Exposure to lead ammunition and fishing tackle has resulted in harmful effects to fish and wildlife species," he said in the order.

Gun groups disputed Ashe's contention and said there was no evidence backing up his claim. "The fact is that traditional ammunition does not pose a significant population-level risk for wildlife," Cox said.

The Humane Society of the United States holds a different view. "The revoked order would have stopped the needless, incidental poisoning of wild animals by toxic lead ammunition and fishing tackle on more than 150 million acres managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," insisted Wayne Pacelle, the organization's CEO and president, in a recently issued statement. "Since 1991, non-toxic ammunition has become even better, more affordable, and widely used," the statement read. "There's just no excuse not to make the transition, except for knee-jerk opposition from a segment of society that simply thinks it's acceptable collateral damage for upwards of 15 million animals from more than 130 species to die of lead poisoning every year.  Hunters can still pursue their hobby without dumping tons of toxic poison on the wildlife who live there."

The National Shooting Sports Foundation said the move shows the difference between how the Obama administration treated gun owners and how the Trump administration will. "Secretary Zinke's rapid response to the previous administration's parting shot on hunters, target shooters and anglers demonstrates the true friend and common sense solutions we can expect from the Department of the Interior," Larry Keane, NSSF senior vice president, said in a statement. "The timing of the traditional ammunition ban on federal lands tells you everything you need to know about the decision. Likewise, the decisive action by Secretary Zinke tells you what you need to know and what we can expect from an Interior Secretary who himself is a hunter, angler and outdoor sportsman."