While Speaker Paul Ryan announced in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting spree that there's no vote scheduled on the bill, the NRA and other gun industry backers are sure to push for final action once other news pushes the latest mass shooting out of the headlines. The NRA's strategy in advancing its agenda depends on the public's not being able to sustain its outrage over the group's wish list of reckless policy proposals.
Just ask yourself: What aspect of our hunting "heritage" would be preserved by removing restrictions on the sale of firearm silencers -- a tool of wildlife poachers and other criminals who want to muffle or otherwise cloak their handiwork? What recreational enhancement would be achieved by removing controls on armor-piercing bullets, which can penetrate life-saving police vests and put our law enforcement officers in the crosshairs?
If the SHARE Act ever passes, the big winners will be the gun and ammunition makers, who will make a bundle from selling new gadgets and ammunition. And then there are the trophy hunters, who will have enhanced opportunities to kill wolves, bears, bison and other species, even in some cases on National Park Service lands.
Ironically, the NRA and other boosters of the SHARE Act, passed just two weeks ago by the House Natural Resources Committee
, claim that federal officials are restricting hunting on public lands. That's false on its face, and even if it were true, this bill wouldn't fix it.
A majority of national wildlife refuges -- 330 out of 500
-- are already open to hunting and fishing. And most sportsmen recognize that some forms of hunting are out of bounds. In cases where there are restrictions on baiting or other such hunting practices, they reflect value judgments of the American people and the wildlife professionals who oversee the practices.
Consider the shooting of the small population of bison in Grand Canyon National Park -- a practice that would be allowed for the first time under the provisions of the SHARE Act. Or, as an alternative, moving the bison out of the park so they can be gunned down elsewhere, in a transplant-and-shoot program. Just how is that going to enhance recreation? Shooting lumbering animals as they graze in fields is a sporting challenge akin to shooting a Volkswagen in a parking lot.
How about hunters leaving massive loads of lead ammunition on wild lands and crop fields as a consequence of their shooting activities? SHARE would bar officials from the Interior Department and the EPA from banning the use of lead ammunition. Copper or steel ammunition are widely available and affordable, and if birds or other wildlife consume the spent fragments, they don't die of poisoning.
Lead, let us remember, has been removed from gasoline, ceramics and paint, and we're all the better for it. By allowing hunters to continue to use lead, we're putting wildlife at risk, and also the families who eat wild game. A simple requirement for hunters to switch to non-toxic ammunition would promote the health of wildlife and people. The annual estimate is that spent lead poisons 15 to 20 million wild animals
a year, including endangered species.
If those provisions aren't bad enough, the SHARE Act would undo a 2015 federal rule
that protected Alaskan bears and wolves from baiting and shooting them in their dens on National Park Service lands.
It would also permanently remove protections
for wolves in the Great Lakes region, subverting unanimous court rulings that the ongoing administrative actions to achieve de-listing have been illegal.
In the United States, there are 11.5 million hunters
who spend $25 billion a year. That may sound like a lot, but it doesn't come close to the 86 million Americans
who call themselves wildlife watchers and spend nearly $76 billion a year in their pursuit.
Calling this bill a special interest power grab to benefit just the few is an understatement. Put simply, Congressional architects of this legislation have hacked the identity of American sportsmen and women to push the narrowest of interests. And sportsmen and women might want to think twice about remaining silent and giving cover to the radical and scary ideas at stake here.
Don't let Congress or the NRA get away with it. The Las Vegas shooting reminds us we need to move in the other direction -- maintaining proper controls on silencers and preserving rules to protect our wildlife from people who would exploit them for personal gain or self-aggrandizement.