The battle is lost. The second attempt to prevent the vote in the EU Parliament on the wetlands restriction has clearly failed yesterday evening: with 153 votes in favor, 499 against, and 39 abstentions, the European Parliament rejected the last motion against it. The consequence: the ban of leadshot in or around wetlands is finally decided now. The restriction proposal has been approved, and the European Commission Regulation amending Annex XVII of the REACH regulation regarding the ban will be published in the Official Journal of the EU in early December 2020, entering into force on the twentieth day following its publication. The “transition” period will be just 24 months.
What does this mean for lead in ammunition in general?
The approval of the restriction proposal means the phasing out leadshot for shotgun shooting over wetlands. Ten million citizens including hunters, farmers, sports’ shooters, competitive clay shooters, which involves international and Olympic shotgun shooting disciplines, will be affected. What's worse, the ban will create major problems related to regulatory compliance and law enforcement at national level, besides inflicting a severe blow to the ammo/firearms industry and shooting ranges.
As FACE's Secretary General, Dr. David Scallan, already explained here on all4shooters.com, there are many serious problems in the EU lead ban.
Problem 1, the definition of a wetland: the Commission proposed in fact to use the full Ramsar definition of “wetlands”, “which includes expansive areas of land without visible water, such as peatlands. This definition will be highly ambiguous for hunters and enforcement officers in deciding what areas are peatlands (including many dry forest areas) and where such peatlands occur at the field level. The definition even includes temporary puddles after rainfall, which will make it impossible for hunters to know whether they are in breach of the regulation or not – especially as the definition changes with weather conditions.”
Problem 2, banning possession: “Buffer zones are included in the proposal, which prohibit the use and carrying of lead shot in or within 100 metres of wetlands. Hence, anyone in possession of lead shot within 100 metres of water will be presumed to be guilty of wetland shooting. Considering that the definition of wetlands depends upon unpredictable weather conditions, it implies that hunters could be considered guilty without realising that they are crossing a wetland while carrying lead shot. This is clearly a breach of international and European human rights law, including the Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.”
Problem 3, impacts on international competitive clay shooting: it will be “practically impossible for Olympic and non-Olympic international clay shooting competitions to be held in any EEA country. Already one rain shower would mean that using lead shot is not allowed, and these are lead shot-only events. Further, it is estimated that over 600 shooting ranges have permanent water features present. No assessment of the impacts of this law on clay shooting was conducted.”
Problem 4, the transition period: “Without any socio-economic rationale, the Commission proposed a much shorter transition period (24 months) than the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) did in its opinion, which was 36 months.” A proper transition period was needed, which should be at least 36 months following ECHA’s opinion and 60 months for countries that have no restriction in place.
Once again – as it always happens when they are talking about hunting and firearms in general – an ideological stance prevailed in the EU, against all logic and against the interests of the European citizens themselves. Hunters and sports shooters will pay the price now, together the whole industry, with all the foreseeable economic impact in a time when, due to the Coronavirus emergency, the situation was already dramatic.
A sad day for hunters and sports shooters in all Europe. We'll keep you informed – the battle is going on in the field of “terrestrial” use of lead in ammunition.