SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California has become the first state to ban lead bullets for all types of hunting after Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Friday.
The Democratic governor said in a signing message that lead ammunition poses a threat to wildlife, noting that California has prohibited it in eight counties within the condors’ range since 1997.
“I am concerned, however, the impression left from this bill is that hunters and sportsmen and women in California are not conservationists,” Brown wrote. “I know that is not the case. Hunters and anglers are the original conservationists.”
He says the bill protects hunters by allowing the ban to be lifted if the federal government ever prohibits non-lead ammo.
Opponents of AB711 argued that non-lead ammunition is more expensive and could be banned federally because it is technically considered to be armor-piercing. The California Fish and Game Wardens’ Association last week urged Brown to veto the bill, saying there is insufficient data to justify a statewide ban.
Three environmental groups — the Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife and Audubon California — sponsored the bill. Supporters say the use of lead bullets not only endangers wildlife but also puts people who eat game killed with the ammunition at risk.
Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, who carried AB711, said in a statement Friday that the ban makes sense because lead has already been prohibited in paint, gasoline and toys.
The ban will be phased in by July 2019. The new law requires the state Fish and Game Commission to enact regulations by July 2015, which will detail when the ban goes into effect for different types of hunting and areas of the state.
Brown said in his signing statement the time between adopting the regulations and requiring the ban to be in full effect will give hunters time to adjust to the new rules. He also said he will direct officials to consider incentives for hunters to make the transition.