The firearms industry trade organization is accusing the federal agency of purposely delaying the publication of an annual report concerning the effect lead-based ammunition has on California condors so that the governor and state Legislature would approve a bill banning the use of ammo containing lead components without first having a chance to look at the most recent data.
Through the Freedom of Information Act the NSSF was able to obtain emails that indicate John McCamman, California condor recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service, dragged his feet when it came time to publish the report, entitled, “California Condor Recovery Program, Project Update and 2011 and 2012 Lead Exposure Report,” in the Spring of 2013.
“[T]he email thread shows that they withheld that [information] from the public; they withheld it from the legislature purposely,” Lawrence Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel, told the Washington Times in an interview. “And why? Because the results show that despite the existing law and regulations that ban the use of traditional ammunition by hunters, it was not having an impact on condor blood-lead levels in California.”
“Which suggests, as we have said all along, that condors in California are accessing lead from other sources, not ammunition,” added Keane.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the ban on traditional ammo in October 2013 after the state Assembly approved it by a vote of 44-21 in May and the Senate by a vote of 23-15 in September that year. According to the emails, a version the report was ready to go in April of 2013. However, it wasn’t released until seven days after the Senate voted on the bill.
“Joseph — is this ready to go? I’ve attached a summary document — the state has been avoiding getting into the middle of the legislatures business (AB711) but now that that is over, this has to be ready to go. … [Are] you comfortable?” wrote McCamman in an email dated Sept. 17, 2013, provided by the NSSF.
So, why did the Fish and Wildlife Service delay the release of the report?
McCamman was unavailable for comment but Scott Flaherty, a spokesman for Fish and Wildlife, told the Washington Times, “I’m pretty sure it was not delayed simply to withhold it from the debate,” adding, “It’s not the business of the service to influence state legislation on condor matters.”
Needless to say, the NSSF isn’t buying it.
“It’s disingenuous if he were to suggest that he was somehow trying to stay out of it,” said Keane. “By withholding that information, he injected himself into it, and again, that information was relevant — highly relevant — to the debate. The public should have been allowed to take that into consideration — certainly members of the legislature, and even the governor, before signing the bill.”
Keane acknowledges that the ammo ban may have been signed into law regardless of the report, as the Legislature is controlled by Democrats, but iterated the call for transparency when dealing with an issue that adversely effects sportsmen and gun owners in the Golden State.