The National Rifle Association (NRA) favors the death of the American bald eagle. The ruling by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, on March 2, 2017, to reverse President Barack Obama’s ban on lead ammunition use, received high praises from the NRA.
NRA Blasts Lead Ammo Ban
On January 19, Obama’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe issued an order to end the use of the lead ammo within a five-year time frame. Director’s Order No. 219 barred lead ammunition and fishing tackle usage on any land, water, and facility controlled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In the decision, Ashe noted how the directive ending the use of lead-based ammo for duck and goose hunting in 1991, increased the population of the waterfowl.
The 1991 federal ban came after biologists and conservationists noted that ingesting lead shot pollution was killing approximately 2 million ducks a year. Ashe’s order intended to stop poisoning wildlife and fish. Foraging animals, such as the bald eagle, are sickened from ingesting the lead shot waste. The NRA noted that protecting the country’s “treasured outdoor legacy” of hunting and using traditional ammunition, is actual threat.
Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, expressed appreciation about the decision to withdraw the ban:
On behalf of the five million members of the NRA and tens of millions of American sportsmen, we thank Secretary Zinke for eliminating this arbitrary attack on our hunting heritage.
NRA Puts Love of Hunting Ahead of American Symbol of Freedom
The bald eagle struggled over the years to survive. A sharp decline in its population was seen after becoming the U.S. emblem on June 20, 1782. Hunters first threatened the bald eagle’s existence in the mid to late 1800s. Around the same time as the birth of the NRA, on Nov. 17, 1871, the birds of prey were being shot to stop them from eating farm animals.
In 1940, the Bald Eagle Protection Act was passed by Congress. Unfortunately, the birds’ lives were soon to be threatened again by a different poison. DDT pesticides, used following WWII, left toxic residue in the waters. While eating fish, the birds would ingest the pesticide that sickened and killed them.
The numbers of eagles dwindled, to just 417 nesting pairs in 1963, leaving them teetering on extinction. The Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 and the 1973 Endangered Species Act gave the bald eagle new protections from being killed by gunshot. By Aug 8, 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency removed the bird off the threatened and endangered list.
In 2017, with lead ammo as the cause, the bald eagle is now in danger of dwindling numbers again. Poisoning due to ammo left behind by hunters has been determined to cause their deaths. The NRA, and other gun rights advocates, disagree with the assessment.
NRA Wears Bald Eagle as Its Emblem While Promoting Birds Death by Lead Bullets
The irony is evident as the NRA fights to keep their right to use lead ammo instead of non-lead ammunition. While the association showcases their seal displaying the bald eagle, they are arguing that not enough birds have been killed by the lead to warrant its ban.
Cox calls the ban irresponsible:
The Obama administration failed to consult with state fish and wildlife agencies or national angling and hunting organizations in issuing this order. This was not a decision based on sound scientific evidence — it was a last second attack on traditional ammunition and our hunting heritage.
As the NRA backs the decision of Trump’s appointee, essentially they are acting like the plan to make America great again includes making a national symbol of America dead again. Ed Clark, president of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, advocates beginning a national campaign to educate hunters to not leave animal remains behind. The hope for the future of the regal eagle is literally now in the hands of hunters who are protected by the NRA.
Opinion Carol Ruth Weber
Edited by Cathy Milne
The Humane Society: Lead Ammunition: Toxic to Wildlife, People and the Environment
Guns.com: Obama’s wildlife director moves to ban lead ammo use
NRA-ILA: The NRA Applauds Secretary Zinke’s Protection of Traditional Ammunition
American Bald Eagle Information: Bald Eagle, US National Emblem
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Newsday: Lead from hunters’ bullets is poisoning, killing bald eagles
Federal Register: Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing the Bald Eagle in the Lower 48 States From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife
NRA: A Brief History of the NRA
Featured and Top Image by National Park Service Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License