New Bill Would Ban Lead Ammo for Youth Clay Competitions

New Bill Would Ban Lead Ammo for Youth Clay Competitions

The Minnesota state legislature is considering a bill that would not only ban lead ammunition and tackle for hunting and fishing but also prohibit lead ammo for youth shooting sports.

The legislation forces all K-12 shooting leagues to adopt a rule by November 1, 2024, that requires nontoxic ammunition at all practices, competitions, training, and other events. It would also revoke funding for shooting sports facilities that do not ban lead ammunition and offer educational services about “the toxic effects of lead ammunition.”

It’s safe to say that clay shooting is a big deal among Minnesota school kids. The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League comprises over 400 teams with over 12,000 student-athletes in middle and high school. Clay shooting is a top-ten participation sport in Minnesota with more teams and participants than boys and girls high school hockey combined.

That’s why the League and others have come out in strong opposition to this bill.

“Youth clay target shooting sports in Minnesota is NOT a public health issue,” the President of the Eagan-based USA Clay Target League, John Nelson, said. “By specifically targeting youth shooting sports, it becomes clear that this is an attack on a school-approved activity that they don’t like.”

The bill, HF 3813/SF 3792, was introduced by eight members of the state House and two members of the state Senate.

One of those sponsors, state senator Jen McEwen, issued a statement implying that students who participate in shooting sports are in danger of lead poisoning.

“Lead exposure through ammunition poses a serious threat to human health, particularly for those involved in hunting, shooting sports, and firearm maintenance," she said. "By transitioning to non-toxic alternatives, we can mitigate the adverse impacts of lead pollution on Minnesotans, the environment, and wildlife."

"I support keeping our kids safe as they take part in shooting sports, which is why I am dedicated to furthering legislative solutions to address this dire public and environmental health concern," she continued.

Impact on Clay Shooting Teams

To learn how this bill would impact clay shooting teams, MeatEater spoke with Scott Moehlmann, the Head Clay Target League Coach at Princeton Public Schools north of Minneapolis. He said that prohibiting traditional lead shot would “dramatically” increase the cost incurred by students and families.

“Ammunition is my team's largest cost by a long shot, and a mandated switch to nontoxic would see these costs increase significantly,” he said. His team needs to purchase about $15,000 worth of shotgun shells every season, and this bill could double that figure. While the school and booster club could reduce that burden somewhat, “costs would absolutely need to be passed on to families.”

Moehlmann also worries about availability. “We would almost certainly have a very hard time finding ammunition,” he said. “Steel target loads are simply not readily available in the quantities we need, much less an entire state of high school teams.”

The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League warns that this lack of availability would significantly impact participation. A reduction in participation will further reduce revenues for shooting ranges that are supported by these clay shooting teams, as well as reduce funding for the DNR through Pittman-Robertson.

Worse still, the bill will have all these negative consequences without significantly reducing harm to wildlife. Lead ammunition impacts waterfowl by spreading lead shot on the landscape that birds ingest and by contaminating big game carcasses that are eaten by scavengers. But as the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League points out, clay shooting involves neither of these scenarios.

“Not only are clay targets not consumed by anyone, clay target sports take place in controlled areas where lead contamination is limited and regularly removed from the environment through reclamation,” they said. “The potential environmental dangers posed by clay target shooting sports are already mitigated by the hundreds of responsible shooting ranges in the state.”

An Ongoing Controversy

This isn’t the first time lead ammunition has sparked controversy in Minnesota. Last year, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced a ban on lead ammunition and tackle at Scientific and Natural Areas (SNAs) that regularly allow hunting and at state parks and SNAs that hold special hunts. But they denied a petition for a complete ban on all SNAs and state parks, arguing instead that such a decision should be made by the state legislature.

This bill is clearly an attempt to make that decision. It would immediately prohibit hunting with lead ammunition or fishing with lead tackle at all SNAs and state parks. At some unspecified date in the future, it would then ban lead ammunition for hunters across the state.

HF 3813 is being considered by the Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee in the House and the Environment, Climate, and Legacy Committee in the Senate. Concerned Minnesotans, along with those who hunt, fish, and target shoot in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, should contact the members of those committees.

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